Reasons to Believe: Titans at Raiders
NASHVILLE – A win Sunday will extend two Tennessee Titans streaks.
If the Titans defeat the Raiders in Oakland it will be their fourth straight triumph. That would make it three years in a row they have had a win streak of at least that length, which has never happened since the franchise relocated from Houston in 1997.
Last year, their first under coach Mike Vrabel, they went unbeaten over Weeks 13-16. In 2017 under Mike Mularkey, their last playoff appearance, they won four times in five weeks (6-10) with a bye along the way.
There have been other instances of back-to-back years with extended periods of success, most notably 1999 (four games) and 2000 (eight and four games). It also happened in 2002 and 2003 as well as 2008 and 2009.
One thing the Titans have not done under Vrabel is win consecutive road games. Following last Sunday’s 31-17 victory at Indianapolis, that opportunity also awaits.
“You’ve got to take a run game, you’ve got to take a defense and understand that you’re going to face adversity, and things are probably not going to always go great,” Vrabel said. “You have to just kind of battle, make a few plays and hopefully try to turn the momentum and make plays to quiet the fans.”
Three reasons to believe the Titans will win Sunday
• Unblemished record: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has never lost to the Raiders. During his seven seasons in Miami, Tannehill was 3-0 against Oakland. In those games he completed 69.1 percent of his passes (58-for-84) for 767 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. His 116.5 passer rating is his best against any opponent he has faced more than once in his career. Some opponents just bring out the best in a player.
• Road weary: The Raiders have played their last two games on the road, the first of which was all the way across the country to face the N.Y. Jets. They lost both by a combined score of 74-12. This is a team that is battered – physically and mentally. It was the third time Oakland has had back-to-back road games. Every trip took players and coaches at least two time zones away, and the Raiders’ road record is a miserable 1-5.
• Hand it to him: Running back Derrick Henry leads the NFL this season with four games of 150-plus yards from scrimmage, including each of the last three contests, and is the league’s third-leading rusher with 1,140 yards (already a career-high). The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner is a big reason for Tennessee’s recent offensive surge (an average of 36 points in the last three games) and as long as Titans coaches aren’t discouraged by the fact that Oakland has a top 10 rushing defense, Henry should remain a big part of the attack.
Three reasons to believe the Titans will lose Sunday
• Unblemished record: Quarterback Derek Carr has never lost to the Titans. In his first five seasons, Carr was 3-0 against Tennessee. In those games he completed 64.4 percent of his passes (67-for-104) for 767 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. His 104.7 passer rating is his second best against any opponent he has faced at least three times in his career. Some opponents just bring out the best in a player.
• Familiar surroundings: The Raiders have just completed their third two-game road swing of the season. After each of the first two, they won in their first game back at home. They beat Chicago 24-21 on Oct. 6 and Detroit 31-24 on Nov. 3. Oakland is 5-1 at home this season, which makes it one of five AFC teams with at least five home victories through Week 13. The other four (Baltimore, New England, Kansas City and Buffalo) are the conference’s three division leaders and the top wild card.
• He’s tight: Opposing tight ends have been productive against Tennessee’s defense through much of the season. Twice in the last three games tight ends scored touchdowns that gave their teams 7-0 leads over the Titans. Oakland Darren Waller might be they have faced at that position all season. Waller is third among all NFL tight ends with 66 receptions, second with 807 receiving yards and first three 100-yard receiving games.
The bottom line
The Titans have proved this season that they can overcome a slow start and even a fourth-quarter deficit. This is a game in which they need to get out to an early lead. The only quarter in which Oakland has outscored its opponents is the first, and after getting drilled on the road each of the last two weeks Jon Gruden’s team will look to get going early at home. By getting ahead early, Tennessee can fuel whatever doubts the Raiders brought home with them from the last two defeats. Fall behind early, and the Raiders – backed by an always enthusiastic crowd – will put that road trip in the past … and the Titans in their rearview mirror.