Out of all the games on the card in Week 1, this one gets me the most excited to sit down and watch. It’s the return of Derek Carr, going up against an AFC South foe that could give them a run for their money in 2017. Telling by the way the Chiefs played last night against the Patriots, though, this division may be a three-team race. Despite the performance last night, I wouldn’t read too deep into Week 1 results. The Pats are still going to be there at the end in the top-tier of NFL competition, and the Chiefs will be fighting to win the division or a wildcard. The same could be said for the Raiders and Titans. The Titans are a fancy pick to have a breakout year. That goes for quarterback Marcus Mariota, too.
I wouldn’t put Mariota in elite company just yet. However, this is the year several pundits are calling for Mariota to put his foot down and take a leap forward. At Oregon, Mariota was indefensible, whether it was passing or running. He had to reevaluate his game a little bit going into the pros, because running all over NFL defenses wasn’t going to work. So, Mariota worked on improving his arm, and it all came together for him in 2016. He played in 15 games a season ago and tossed 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Mariota stayed true to his running ability too, though, rushing for 349 yards and 2 touchdowns.
He had to learn not to take off so often out of the pocket. In 2016 he developed into one of the best in the league at examining the field, knowing when to stay in the pocket or take off. Colin Kaepernick had that ability, but he didn’t have an arm like Mariota, nor was he as fast. Mariota and Russel Wilson are the best in that regard. Right off the bat in Week 1, Mariota will have an opportunity to prove himself at home against a divisional rival.
After breaking his leg with just two weeks remaining in the regular season, Carr returns to steer the offense at quarterback. All I remember is Mark Davis cursing up in box, as the Raiders watched their postseason dreams go up in smoke. They couldn’t facilitate any offense behind Connor Cook against the Texans in the Wild Card Round, leading to an early out for an otherwise successful season.
Tough pill to swallow for the Raiders, but they’re hoping he can stay upright in 2017 and lead them to the top of the AFC. If that’s the defense the Patriots are going to be playing with this season, the AFC is going to be there for the taking. Head below for our pick of this critical Week 1 matchup between the Raiders and Titans.
Oakland Raiders vs. Tennessee Titans Betting Odds:
vs. Titans -1.5(-115)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Raiders vs. Titans Pick:
The Titans aren’t just Marcus Mariota. If both backs stay healthy, they’re going to have a two-headed beast at running back. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry should both prove to be a load in the backfield. They will make for one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL. Then you factor in the ability of Mariota, and the Titans should have no problems moving the football this season. The Titans finished 14th with 23.8 points per game in 2016. Watch that number go up this season.
Mariota was in a similar boat as Carr last year. He broke his fibula in December, knocking him out of the final game of the season. He didn’t appear to suffer any setbacks in camp, so I look for him to be at 100 percent entering the regular season. The Titans added Eric Decker as a target for Mariota in the offseason. Decker hasn’t had a capable quarterback throwing to him since he left Denver, after signing a contract with the Jets. We’ll see how him and Mariota establish a relationship in the passing game in this one. It’s a young receiving core, and Decker will be the wily veteran of the bunch. He is coming off an injury as well.
The Raiders defense held them back some in 2016. Offensively they had no issues, but their defensive unit ranked 26th in total defense, and were allowing an abysmal 6.1 yards per play. They ranked 24th against the pass, and drafted a cornerback in the 1st round to address that. Only problem is they drafted a kid who was dealing with off the field problems at Ohio State and into the draft.
Gareon Conley comes in questionable on the injury report and has only participated in three practices since June. I don’t see how their defense moves up significantly in 2017. I expected to see the Raiders as slight favorites here, or a pick ‘em. The line keeps getting bigger in favor of the Titans with the public on the Raiders. It’s the kind of thing that makes you stop for a minute and ponder. I don’t see many that like the Titans in Week 1, but I like them making a statement at home.
PICK: TITANS -1.5 (-115)