(KPIX)- To paraphrase Jay-Z, it was all good just two weeks ago for the Oakland Raiders. At the time, the team sat 6-4, squarely in competition for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC or even the AFC West division. They faced what seemed to be a favorable schedule down the stretch.
Instead, the team has suffered back-to-back blowout losses to the Jets (34-3) and Chiefs (40-9). Now, 6-6, the Raiders have little to no shot of winning the AFC West and are trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers by a game in the chase for the final Wild Card spot. Also ahead of them is their opponent this week, the Tennessee Titans. While Tennessee comes in sporting just a 7-5 record, CBS Los Angeles sports anchor Greg Wolf notes that the teams appear to be headed in opposite directions.
“These are two very different football teams right now. The Raiders, to me, they’ve been outscored 74-12 over the last two weeks of the season. And they had everything to play for in that game at Kansas City. They were fighting for a share of that division lead,” said Wolf. “They just don’t have the weapons right now. Jon Gruden said it a couple weeks ago, ‘we’re in a rebuilding mode’ is what he said. They have a lot of not just young players that they’re counting on to help them win football games, but they’re counting on a lot of rookies as well.”
The Titans on the other hand, have been flying high under the direction of backup quarterback Ryan Tannehill, winners of three straight and five of six since he took over for Marcus Mariota under center. Under Tannehill as starter, the Titans have averaged over 29 points per game (29.6). Contrast that with Mariota, who led the offense to just 16.3 points per game. That is a massive improvement, one that Wolf attributes to Tannehill’s efficiency in key situations.
“He’s been sensational. He’s been a top-five quarterback since he’s come in as a starter in virtually every statistical category,” said Wolf. “The Titans are number one in the red zone in scoring offense since he’s taken over as well. A big part of it is not just how great he’s been playing but also he’s been so great at keeping his team on schedule… on third down, third-and-short, third-and-manageable situations.”
There has been plenty of help for Tannehill, of course. Running back Derrick Henry has looked unstoppable in the last three weeks, rushing for 188, 159 and 149 yards respectively with a combined five touchdowns. That ground game could be devastating to a Raiders defense which ranks 26th in efficiency against the run and allows four yards per carry. The Titans offense is only part of the reason that Wolf believes they will come out on top in this matchup against the Raiders. The other part? Their schedule after this game isn’t kind, which means there might be a little extra motivation for Mike Vrabel’s group this week.
“They have to win this game, because this is an extremely winnable game. The schedule gets very difficult for the Titans after this week,” said Wolf. “They’re going to have to play Houston, who is one game up on them in the division, twice over the last few weeks of the season, and they’re at New Orleans. I think they see this game against the Raiders as a must-win.”
The game is likely a must-win for the Raiders as well, because if they lose this matchup, Oakland could potentially fall two games behind both Tennessee and Pittsburgh in the playoff chase. The Raiders and Titans are part of the second half of CBS’s Sunday doubleheader, with kickoff slated for 1:25 p.m. Pacific Time.