Heading into the season, the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans were expected to compete for their respective division titles. However, both the Raiders and Titans are searching for their first win two weeks into the campaign, making for a very pivotal Week 3 matchup.
DraftKings Sportsbook has Las Vegas as slight favorites heading into the contest, so to serve as a preview and mini-betting guide, Jimmy Morris from Music City Miracles was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for Raider Nation.
Question: Raider Fans know Todd Downing well as he took over as their offensive coordinator in 2017 and the offense went from finishing seventh in scoring the year before to 23rd under his guidance. I can’t help but notice that Ryan Tannehill had his worst season in Tennessee last season when Downing took over. Do you think the play-caller has been Tannehill’s biggest problem lately or is there something more to it than that?
Answer: The play-caller has been a problem for sure. Is that the biggest problem? Probably not.
His biggest problem has been not taking care of the football. He threw 13 INTs in his first 26 starts with the Titans in 2019-2020. In 2021 alone he threw 14 in the regular season and 3 more in the playoff game none of us want to talk about. This run-first offense works on a pretty thin margin for error. It’s really good as long as Tannehill is being efficient in the times he is asked to throw the ball. It’s rough when he isn’t. That’s the biggest thing that has changed for him.
With all of that being said, Todd Downing is a disaster as a play caller. He was last season and has continued to be this season. He ran a TE sweep on 3rd and 1 in Week 1 when he has Derrick Henry. That’s about all you need to know.
Q: I’m sure this is a difficult question to answer, but what’s the best way to keep Derrick Henry in check and under the 87.5-yard mark that DraftKings Sportsbook has set as the O/U for him? Do you like the over or under for that on Sunday?
A: It’s tough to bet the over on Henry right now because of the problems on the offensive line. It seems like Taylor Lewan is a long shot to play this week. That most likely means they will be running Dennis Daley back out there at left tackle. He played fine after Lewan went out on the first play against the Bills, but they added him in a trade right at the end of training camp. Needless to say, they weren’t planning on him being the guy.
There is also the fact that we haven’t seen Derrick Henry be King Henry since early last season. He missed most of 2021 with a broken foot. He came back for the playoff game but wasn’t able to get going. He hasn’t gotten going in these first two games. Is that because he is on the wrong side of the aging curve, because of the offensive line, or because the game script just hasn’t worked out for him yet? I don’t know the answer there, but I don’t think I can bet an over until I see it.
Q: If Taylor Lewan can’t play this week, who steps in as his replacement, and what will the Titans offense be missing? Are you worried about Chandler Jones replicating his five-sack performance from last season? Granted, Jones has been quiet so far this year.
A: As I mentioned above, that was Daley against the Bills. Will that change with a week of preparation? They have a couple of ways they could go besides Daley.
Rookie third-round pick Nicholas Petit-Frere has started the first two games at right tackle and has played well. They could move him over to left tackle because it seems like that is where he will end up when Lewan is gone — most likely after this season. They could also give 2021 second-round pick Dillon Radunz a shot. He reportedly had a great offseason and was the favorite to win the RT job heading into camp but was beaten out by NPF. He has largely been a bust in his time here but did play reasonably well when he filled in at LT against the 49ers last year.
As for the Chandler Jones piece of the question, yeah, with this offensive line I’m terrified of what Raiders EDGE guys might be able to do.
Q: Jeffery Simmons has become a monster in the middle of the Titans’ defense over the last few years. How do opposing offenses slow that guy down? Does he command the Aaron Donald treatment, meaning double-team after double-team?
A: He does command all of the double teams. He had a huge year last year because the Titans had multiple pass rush threats. Teams weren’t really able to dedicate a double team to him on every play. That has changed a little bit this year with the loss of Harold Landry right before the season started and the injury to Bud Dupree against the Bills. It will be interesting to see what they try to scheme up for the defense if they don’t have Dupree.
Q: Tennessee’s secondary is really interesting to me. At safety, you have two really good players in Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker, but at cornerback, it’s a collection of young guys who have talent but lack experience with Roger McCreary, Caleb Farley and Kristian Fulton. How do you think they stack up to the likes of Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow?
That’s the most terrifying thing about this match-up. Kristian Fulton, their best corner, wasn’t able to go against Buffalo Monday night. That forced Caleb Farley into a starting role, which didn’t last long before he was benched. Hopefully, he can play.
Roger McCreary has been good thus far in his rookie season, so at least they have that going for them. Stefon Diggs torched this group to the tune of 12 catches for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns. He did all of that without having Gabe Davis on the other side. I don’t feel great about it, to be honest.