The 2016 season was a bittersweet one for the Oakland Raiders, who qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2002 but had their hopes go down the drain when Derek Carr suffered a broken leg in Week 16. With its star quarterback fully healthy, Oakland hopes for bigger things this season, beginning with its opener against the host Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Carr’s injury was a major blow for the Raiders, as the 26-year-old has developed into one of the top signal-callers in the NFL - as evidenced by his becoming just the fifth player in league history with at least 80 touchdown passes (81) in his first three seasons. Carr has an excellent pair of targets in receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and hopes the luring of Marshawn Lynch out of retirement will strengthen the backfield and reduce his workload. Tennessee also is welcoming back its quarterback from a broken leg, as Marcus Mariota is ready to improve upon a campaign in which he completed more than 61 percent of his passes. Mariota also has numerous weapons at his disposal, as receiver Rishard Matthews is joined by newcomer Eric Decker and Western Michigan product Corey Davis, who was selected fifth overall in this year’s draft.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Titans -3. O/U: 50.5
ABOUT THE RAIDERS (2016: 12-4, 2nd in AFC West): Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack was a full participant in practice on Thursday - as was Cooper (knee) - after sitting out the previous day’s activities due to a back injury. Sebastian Janikowski, who also is dealing with a back injury that has limited him in practice this week, has agreed to a $1 million pay cut that brings his salary down to $3 million. Despite enjoying a year of retirement, Lynch leads all running backs with 51 rushing touchdowns since 2011.
ABOUT THE TITANS (2016: 9-7, 2nd in AFC South): Davis, whose 5,278 receiving yards at Western Michigan is an all-time FBS record, did not see action during the preseason due to a hamstring injury but is expected to be ready to face Oakland. DeMarco Murray, who led the AFC and finished third overall in the league with 1,287 rushing yards last season, also dealt with a hamstring issue during training camp but deemed himself healthy for the season opener. “I feel great,” Murray, who leads the NFL with 37 rushing TDs since 2013, told reporters on Thursday. “I’ve had two weeks of full practice and things have been great. I feel great, I feel fresh and I feel ready to go.”
1. Mariota threw 26 touchdown passes last season to become the third QB in franchise history with at least 25 in a campaign.
2. Cooper (83 catches, 1,153 yards) and Crabtree (89, 1,003) were the only WR duo in the league with at least 80 catches and 1,000 yards apiece last season.
3. Tennessee DL David King will be facing a familiar foe in Oakland after being acquired from Kansas City over the weekend for a 2018 conditional seventh-round draft pick.
PREDICTION: Raiders 33, Titans 23