While the NFL Season is made up of 16 individual match-ups that make up a singular whole, the reality is that each week presents unique challenges. One week the Raiders will play a team whose run defense is stout, while the next they might play a team that is loaded on the interior. One week they might play a team with linebackers that can’t cover backs and tight ends, while the next they might play a team with no slot corner.
The point is, while guys like Amari Cooper and Derek Carr are high-end guys every week, some weeks will be better than others. That said, the same goes for their opponents – some guys will present better matchups than others, and so the goal of this article every week is to take a look at which guys are poised for big weeks, and which ought to prepare for down ones.
Last season against the Titans, Crabtree exploded for 8 catches and 102 yards on 11 total targets. While the Titans have upgraded their defensive backfield by adding Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson, they still lack a true No. 1 corner — and Crabtree is probably going to see the second-best guy.
Add in the fact that Crabtree got off to a hot start last season (26 catches, 308 yards, 4 TD in the first four games) and this could be a juicy match-up for him.
For anyone who has watched Raiders football for the past few seasons and has followed their activity (or lack thereof) at the linebacker position this offseason, this inclusion will be no surprise. Simply put: the Raiders haven’t been able to cover tight ends and there’s no reason to believe that will change this season.
Oakland caught a break in last season’s match-up with Walker out injured. He has become one of the league’s best (65 catches, 800 yards, 7 TDs last season). Opposing tight ends are going to find themselves here until Cory James and Marquel Lee prove they shouldn’t
After a disappointing 2015 campaign, Murray was back to his old self in 2016 — racking up nearly 1,300 yards and 9 TDs with a YPC of 4.4. Unfortunately for Oakland, they gave up a big chunk of that — allowing Murray to have his second-best game of the season against them (185 total yards, 1 TD). Much like in Walker’s case, the question is: has much changed from last season?
The Raiders still look vulnerable up the middle and Murray will look to exploit that — especially as Walker and Marcus Mariota open up the run game with their ability to air it out.
While both teams boast a guy who finished in the top-15 in sacks last season (Khalil Mack, Brian Orakpo), neither guy got much to eat in their match-up last season as the teams combined for just two total sacks. Of course, that makes sense when you consider the Raiders allowed the fewest sacks in the league last year (18) and the Titans the seventh-fewest (28).
Marcus Mariota is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, so there’s no shame in getting beat up by him a bit, but this Raiders D just doesn’t feel like a unit that’s ready for Week 1. In the pre-season games, the Raiders allowed 34 first-quarter points before getting most starters out of the game, and this Titans group is far better than some of the teams they played.
The Raiders’ linebackers have a total of five starts between them, they’ve got a rookie starting at defensive tackle and have the mercurial Sean Smith slated to see serious playing time. Now, all of that could work out alright for Jack Del Rio and Co., but this is a ‘what’s most likely to happen’ scenario, and, well, who knows.