Editor’s Note: As the Raiders approach a do or die matchup with the Titans, I caught up with Jimmy Morris, editor-in-chief at Music City Miracles to ask a few questions about the upcoming matchup. He discusses the Titan’s formula for success, a few under-the-radar players and his prediction for the game.
Q: The Titans have had a bit of a mid-season resurgence with Ryan Tannehill as the quarterback. What has been Tennessee’s formula for success?
The Titans offense is built around a power running game with Derrick Henry and a play action passing game. Henry being effective opens up a lot of easy throws in the passing game. Marcus Mariota was missing those throws earlier in the year. Tannehill has done an excellent job with that. He has also proven to be more aggressive down the field and more decisive in where he goes with the football. It has been really fun to watch.
Q: The Titans are sitting pretty at No. 4 in run defense DVOA, but are near the bottom of the league with the No. 24 ranked pass defense. Why do you think this split is so great? Is Tennessee selling out to stop the run first, or is it a personnel issue?
The Titans have an issue with the pass rush. Dean Peas does and excellent job scheming up pressure with blitzes, but they have a problem creating pressure when they don’t send extra people. That problem got even worse when they lost Cameron Wake a few weeks ago. They have also had injuries in the secondary to Malcolm Butler and currently Adoree Jackson. All of these things have combined for struggles with the passing defense.
The good news is they have been a really good redzone defense, so teams haven’t piled up a bunch of points against them.
Q: What matchups do you think the Titans can exploit on either side of the ball? Is there a particular matchup problem the Raiders may pose that worries you?
The Titans are going to try and establish Henry when they have the ball. I haven’t watched the Raiders very much, but I do know they have been gashed by running backs the last couple of weeks. The Titans will be thrilled to take advantage of that.
Tyrell Williams worries me for the Raiders. Jackson is the guy they would typically match-up with a guy like Williams that can get down the field. They could struggle against him with Jackson missing this game.
Q: Who is an under-the-radar player on offense and defense who is making a big impact in Tennessee this year?
Jonnu Smith is they guy to watch on offense. He is the TE1 with Delanie Walker on IR. The Titans will also be without Adam Humphries in this game. That opens up some opportunities in the middle of the field for Jonnu. He has had some big plays this year but has been quiet the last few weeks. He should get some chances in this one.
The guy to watch on defense is Harold Landry. I probably won’t be able to use him as an under-the-radar guy because he has a sack every week. He is up to 9 on the season. Landry has been the one guy that has been able to consistently get pressure on opposing QBs.
Q: What’s your prediction for this game? And how do you see the AFC Wildcard race shaking out?
The Titans have been dreadful on the West Coast for as long as I can remember, but this team is different. They are on a roll and the Raiders have been struggling. I think we see a lot of points and the Titans win 34-27.
I might be a homer here, but I think the Titans are going to win the AFC South. If they do, the Houston Texans will probably end up as the second wild card team behind the Bills.