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Breaking down the opponent: Keys to Victory against the Titans

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Oakland Raiders v Tennessee Titans Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Week 14 of NFL action brings the Raiders back home in a battle with AFC wildcard implications against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are much improved after ditching Marcus Mariota and opting to start Ryan Tannehill. Since the QB change, the Titans are 5-1, including an upset victory over a Chiefs team that just stomped the Raiders last week.

Do the Raiders have a chance? Let’s take a look at what the Titans do well and see if there are any weaknesses the Raiders can exploit.

Offense powered by Henry

The Titans boast their own Alabama RB in Derrick Henry. Henry is coming into this weekend ranked 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards. His combination of size, burst, and breakaway speed in the open field is awe-inspiring. He is a workhorse back who will keep pounding away until the defense breaks down and he reels off a run like this one against the Chiefs.

Another player to keep an eye on is rookie WR AJ Brown. The Ole Miss product is quietly coming into his own as a professional receiver and has accumulated his share of highlight plays this season for his offense. This route is run off of a play action. Once Brown gets the ball, he takes off. He gives them another size-speed athlete who is dangerous in open space.

One weakness the Titans have on offense is Tannehill’s penchant for holding the ball too long. He is a great athlete for the QB position and is capable of making an unsuspecting defense pay with his legs but his running ability can come back to bite him at times. That penchant for holding onto the ball too long is why he’s been sacked 20 times in the last seven games, including six times just last week. Tannehill will be the most sackable QB on the Raiders schedule. He must go down.

Defense is built for the splash play

On defense, the Titans have one of the most opportunistic secondaries in pro football. Much of this has to do with stalwart DBs in Logan Ryan and Kevin Byard. This duo in the back end has helped anchor a defense that is top 10 in forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, passes defensed, and interceptions. Ryan in particular is as good of a nickel corner as the Raiders have played against. He will blitz as well as drop back into coverage. Check out this interception against the Colts shown above. Ryan is lined up over the slot but rotates back into the deep half and takes the ball away. Carr needs to protect the ball because they are capable of throwing unusual coverages at quarterbacks.

It’s not just scheme that helps the Titans defense take away the football; its clear that they work on the fundamentals of the game and their players are ready to make game-changing plays. The Titans aren’t a rigid defense that keeps the score low. They are, however, an outfit that is capable of scoring points of their own and they make splash plays like this every almost week.

Teams have been able to exploit the Titans with a ground and pound attack. They have been gashed by RBs like Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, and Marlon Mack. If Josh Jacobs’ shoulder is healthy enough, he should be able to feast on a team that is built to defend the pass more so than stop the run.

Keys to Victory

Offense

  • Feed the running game
  • Protect the football

Defense

  • Stop Derrick Henry
  • Create pressure on Tannehill