Oakland Raiders (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-1)
Both of these two teams were high on my underrated list going into the season. The Titans have so far exceeded expectations, not just winning last week on the road in Detroit, but also moving the chains at a higher rate than their opponent in both games. They enter this contest 13th in rate of moving the chains differential (RMCD). Their loss was at home to the Vikings by 9, but the Titans actually outplayed Minnesota for most of the game, outside of two offensive plays that ended up going for defensive touchdowns the other way. That was the difference in the game, but return touchdowns allowed tend to be more fluky plays rather than something that’s a long-term problem.
Meanwhile, the Raiders haven’t had a terrible start to the season, but aren’t playing like I expected. A solid defense last season, which added a significant amount of talent in the off-season, the Raiders’ defense has been the worst in the league through 2 games this season. Their offense has carried them, as they rank 1st in rate of moving the chains so far, but this is not a team I expected to be in a lot of shootouts. Their opponents in the first two games (New Orleans and Atlanta) are teams I expected to be in a lot of shootouts though, so it’s very likely the Raiders defense looks significantly better going forward, while their offense falls back down to earth. I don’t expect them to get in a shootout with the Titans, who aren’t built for shootouts either.
Whether or not the Raiders are good enough to be the #2 seed in the AFC, as I had them before the season, remains to be seen and this game in Tennessee is tougher than people realize, because the Titans are not a bad team. They only won 3 games last season, but that was largely because of injuries (particularly to quarterback Marcus Mariota) and close losses. They added a lot of talent this off-season, both rookies through the draft and veterans through trades and free agency, and are at least an average football team. This week, they get Derrick Morgan back from injury, though talented tight end Delanie Walker is highly questionable. As long as this line is under a field goal, I’m taking the Raiders to beat a quality opponent on the road, but I’m not confident enough to put anything on it.
Oakland Raiders 19 Tennessee Titans 16
Pick against the spread: Oakland -1