Marcus Mariota and the Titans open up at home against Derek Carr and the Raiders
The Oakland Raiders will begin their 2017 NFL season on the road as they will travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon.
Both the Raiders and Titans wrapped up their preseason last Thursday night with losses. Oakland dropped its preseason finale to Seattle by a score of 17-13 while Tennessee fell 30-6 to Kansas City. The Chiefs followed that victory up with the first one that really counts by beating defending Super Bowl champion New England 42-27 on the road on Thursday to kick the regular season off.
This will be the third straight year that the Raiders have played in Nashville against the Titans. Oakland holds a 25-20 series advantage over the franchise, which started as the Houston Oilers in the AFL back in 1960.
Oakland at Tennessee
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 10 at 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Tennessee -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The quarterbacks
This game will feature two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL in Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota. Both also are coming off of season-ending injuries they suffered at the end of the last year.
Mariota fractured his fibula in a Week 16 loss to the Jacksonville, which cost the Titans a chance at a playoff spot. That same week, Carr broke his leg in a home win against Indianapolis. Oakland still made the playoffs, but without their quarterback, the Raiders lost to Houston in the AFC Wild Card Game.
Last year, Mariota threw for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Carr tossed 28 touchdowns (and just six INTs), making him just the fifth player in NFL history with 80 in his first three seasons. Both should be fully healed from their broken bones so this quarterback pairing could be one of the best Week 1 has to offer.
2. Marshawn Lynch
Sunday will be Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch’s first NFL game since January 17, 2016, when the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional Round. Although he was away from football for an entire year, Lynch will look to carry over the same success he had with the Seahawks.
Since 2011, Lynch has more rushing touchdowns (51) than any other NFL player. During the preseason, Lynch only carried the ball four times for 16 yards, so expect him to be much more of a factor in their game against the Titans on Sunday.
3. The defenses
In 2016, both the Raiders and Titans ranked in the 20s in total defense. Oakland finished the season 26th in the league at 375.1 yards per game allowed, while Tennessee was a few spots higher (20th) at 357.5.
Under the leadership of Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the Titans were second in the NFL against the run last season, giving up just 88.3 yards per game. They also tied for sixth in sacks with 40, the first time the defense had as many since 2010.
Even though the Raiders’ featured NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, the unit’s overall production left plenty to be desired. Despite Mack’s 11 sacks the Raiders finished last in the league in that category (25), and didn’t rank any better than 20th in the other three major defensive categories (20th in scoring, 23rd in rushing, 24th in passing defense).
Both Oakland and Tennessee could be playoff teams by the end of the season, so Sunday’s game should make for a compelling contest. The difference in the game could be the Titans’ offense versus the Raiders’ defense.
If Oakland can’t generate pressure on Marcus Mariota, the third-year player could have a field day against the Raiders’ secondary. Tennessee also has a potent running game with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry as well.
While Sunday’s game figures to be a high-scoring affair, the Titans at home should be able to pull out the victory against a tough Raiders team.
Prediction: Titans 31, Raiders 27
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.