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VOL. 40 | NO. 39 | Friday, September 23, 2016

Raiders at Titans: What to watch

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Score more points: OK, the Titans are 1-1, and may be somewhat encouraged by that. But they also have scored 16 points in both games. As exotic as the “smashmouth” might be, and as much bend-but-don’t break as the defense has put up, let’s be honest here, the Titans won’t be in the win column very often in today’s NFL scoring just 16 points every week. Somehow, some way, the offense has to find a way to score more often.

Reduce the penalties: The Titans were fortunate to get away with 12 penalties in Sunday’s win at Detroit. Their only saving grace was that the Lions were worse with 17 infractions. The only good news? Taylor Lewan, usually a major culprit when it comes to penalties had none of the Titans’ dozen miscues. That’s a sign of progress.

Roll up the yards: The Raiders have given up 500-plus yards of total offense to both the Saints and the Falcons. The Titans’ offense might not be explosive enough to rack up that many yards, but the opportunity should be there for bigger plays both with the run and the pass.

Erase the home-field disadvantage: The Titans have just one win each in the past two seasons at home. Thank goodness for Jacksonville, huh? Other than the Jaguars, the Titans have not beaten anyone else at home the past two seasons, including a loss to the Raiders last year. The Titans desperately need to re-establish themselves at home and in the process help keep opposing fans from taking over the stadium.

Three matchups to watch

Titans defensive line vs. Raiders offensive line: The Titans had four sacks against the Lions and will need to get that pressure on Derek Carr as well this Sunday against Oakland. It will be hard enough for the Titans long in the tooth secondary to cover Amari Cooper. But if they can’t pressure Carr, then it will be a long day sure enough.

Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree vs. Jason McCourty and Perrish Cox: As stated above, if the Titans can’t pressure Carr, then Cooper could have a field day. Titans corners McCourty and Cox will have to use their veteran guile to try and hang with the Raiders’ tandem of Cooper and Crabtree, who form one of the best receiver combos in the NFL.

Taylor Lewan vs Khalil Mack: Lewan is coming off what Mike Mularkey called his “best game as a Titan” He probably was helped some by the fact that Ziggy Ansah exited early in the game and did not return. But progress is progress. The stakes are now raised considerably with Mack, the Raiders’ young pass rushing star across from him.

-- Terry McCormick

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