The surging Tennessee Titans take on the slumping Oakland Raiders with a playoff spot on the line. Which team is the sharp NFL pick?
Tennessee Titans (7-5) vs. Oakland Raiders (6-6)
Sunday, December 8 at 4:25 PM ET (CBS), RingCentral Coliseum
Free NFL Pick: Titans -2.5 (-110) at 5Dimes
The Raiders struggled in last 2 weeks playing in cold weather against the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. Quarterback Derek Carr’s struggles in the cold were highlighted and Carr did nothing to dispel those criticisms with a lackluster performance on Sunday. Oakland continues to rely on rookie running back Josh Jacobs, who is putting up impressive numbers despite the fact he is playing with a fractured shoulder this season. Jacobs has been the lone bright spot for this offense the last couple weeks. Jacobs put up good numbers against Kansas City, it was the rest of the offenses’ inability to move the ball that led to the Raiders downfall. The Titans can expect a heavy dose of Jacobs this Sunday.
The Raiders defense is still below average and especially struggles in pass coverage. Raiders linebackers are relatively slow and unathletic, leading to the problem of stopping the run and the pass. The Raiders defensive line has had a boost with 4th round pick Maxx Crosby stepping up and becoming an effective pass rusher. Johnathan Hankins does a good job of holding down of the middle of the line. PJ Hall and Maurice Hurst are also effective defensive lineman. The solid defensive line play cannot make up for the lack of talent and athleticism at the linebacker and secondary positions, where Raiders defenders are constantly torched in pass coverage, giving up big plays making it hard for their offense to execute their deliberate style of play.
The Raiders’ main problem is they at do not have the ability to come back from deficits. A run based offensive theme that enjoys gobbling up the clock and time of possession is quite susceptible to leads of 2 scores or more. Once Gruden goes down by more than 2 scores, he does not have the weapons in his arsenal or playbook to make up chunks of yardage or points quickly, therefore putting his team at a severe disadvantage. For the Raiders to have a shot on Sunday they will need to keep it close all game, as this is not a team built to come from behind.
Tannehill Turning the Tide
The Titan’s season completely turned around when coach Mike Vrabel benched quarterback Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has turned this team around as he has more ability to get the ball down the field and his penchant for running the ball at opportune times has ingratiated himself with his new teammates and this team is winning. The Titans also rely on a bell cow running back from Alabama, Derrick Henry, whose rough, between the tackles playing style has worn down opposing defenses and help the Titans keep their leads.
Tennessee is coming off a big win in Indianapolis over the rival Colts and everything is set up for them to make a run at the division title with two games against the Texans remaining on their schedule. But in order make those games count the Titans will have to win games such as these against slumping teams that might not have the same talent that Tennessee does. Both teams like to establish to run first and control tempo and time of possession so the goals of each team will be similar.
A major advantage Tennessee has in playing this style of game is they have a much stronger a defense. The Titans are 10th in rushing yards allowed at 102 yds per game. The Titans are 27th in passing defense, giving up an average of 260 yds per game. So the Raiders might have to use a more aggressive, pass happy approach in order to attack the weaknesses of the Titans defense.
The happy story of the raiders last season in Oakland appears to be coming to an end. The weather is cooling down and so is Derek Carr’s production. The Titans are on a roll, they are 5-1 since Ryan Tannehill took over. Derrick Henry is finding his groove and this Oakland defense has had problems stopping the run. This Oakland team is in disarray. The Titans finally have a leader and which they can believe in and are a team heading in the right direction. I think these NFL trends will continue and I expect the Titans to win and cover the NFL odds of 2.5 points. The Titans are 6-1 in their last 7 December games. My NFL pick is the Tennessee Titans -2.5.
Free NFL Pick: Titans -2.5 (-110) at 5Dimes