Raiders look to snap losing streak when they host streaking Titans in matchup of AFC playoff hopefuls
Both the Tennessee Titans and the Oakland Raiders find themselves in the chase for one of the two AFC wild-card spots. With the Titans at 7-5 and the Raiders at 6-6, needless to say, their game against one another in Oakland on Sunday could determine if one of these teams will be playing football in January.
Tennessee has won its last three games to get back into the playoff race. Their latest 31-17 victory came on the road against the Colts in Indianapolis.
As for Oakland, they've lost two straight games after the team became frontrunners for the second wild card in the AFC. But after their 40-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders find themselves in a must-win scenario just to remain in the playoff chase.
The series between Tennessee and Oakland dates back to 1960 when the Raiders and then-Houston Oilers were part of the original eight AFL teams. The Raiders hold a 26-20 regular-season edge in the series, and Oakland has won three consecutive games between the two teams.
Tennessee at Oakland
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 8 at 4:25 p.m.
Spread: Tennessee -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Josh Jacobs
On Wednesday, Jacobs revealed on Snapchat that he had been playing with a fractured right shoulder since the Raiders' Week 7 loss to the Packers. The running back briefly left the game against Green Bay before returning later in the contest.
In preparations for the Titans, Jacobs missed the first two days of practice because of the injury. Jacobs hasn't missed a game this season, although the Raiders have managed his workload in recent weeks.
In 12 games, Jacobs has rushed for 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns. Even if Jacobs were to play against the Titans, it is hard to know how effective the rookie back could potentially be. Either way, it could be hard to run the ball against the Titans, as they're 10th in the league in rushing defense.
2. Ryan Tannehill
The change in scenery has been great for Tannehill this season. After seven seasons with the Dolphins, Tannehill has had a bit of a renaissance with the Titans — right before he is set to hit free agency.
After replacing Marcus Mariota as the team's starter, Tennessee has gone 5-1. Over eight games, Tannehill has thrown for 1,602 yards, 12 touchdowns, and four interceptions. His 113.9 passer rating and 72.2 percent completion rate both rank second in the NFL.
Oakland's pass defense struggled at times, as 258.2 yards per game allowed ranks 24th in the league. Against the Chiefs, however, the Raiders' secondary only gave up 175 yards in a losing effort.
3. Raiders' rushing defense
Oakland's rushing defense has been solid all season by holding opponents to 103.6 yards per game on the ground. But the Raiders will have a stiff test trying to slow down one of the hottest running backs in the league this weekend in Derrick Henry.
Just like last season — when he ran for 675 yards and nine touchdowns during the second half of the season — Henry has hit a stride in the second half with 496 rushing yards and six touchdowns in his last three games. Henry is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and has set the tone for the Titans offense.
If the Raiders can contain Henry, that will put more pressure on Tannehill and the Titans' passing game. But if Henry can continue his streak of 140 yards and a touchdown — he's only the sixth player to ever accomplish that — it could be a long day for the Oakland defense.
Tennessee is averaging 29.7 points per game since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter. The Titans also seem to have the edge on defense and special teams, but the Raiders have played some of their best football at home this season.
Oakland is 4-1 at RingCentral Coliseum this year, while Tennessee is 3-3 on the road. One of the biggest keys could be if the Titans' offensive line can give Tannehill enough time to throw the ball and create holes for Derrick Henry.
The Raiders' season is on the line, and they should play well. But the Titans' offense is playing some of its best football, while the Raiders have taken a step back lately.
Prediction: Titans 34, Raiders 31
— 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.