Titans Preview

The Oakland Raiders open up the 2010 season on the road against the Tennessee Titans. The new defensive front faces off against arguably the top running back in the league, Chris Johnson. S&BI previews the game and offers up its prediction.

GAME INFO

-- The Oakland Raiders open the 2010 season on the road against Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans.

-- The Titans play their games at LP Field in Nashville. Kickoff time is set for 10:00 am PST. The game will be televised on CBS and the broadcast will be provided by Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts.

-- Jeff Fisher is entering his 16th season as head coach of the Titans. He began in 1994 when they were the Houston Oilers. He has a career record of 136-110-0.

-- The Raiders lead the all-time series record, 23-18.

-- The Raiders and Titans last met in 2007 with the Titans winning, 13-9. The last time the Raiders were in Nashville in 2005, they won, 34-25.

-- Jeff Fisher is 5-4 in his career against the Raiders. This will be Tom Cable's first game against both Fisher and the Titans.

-- Sunday's game will be Tom Cable's 29th as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. That is the most for a Raiders coach since Norv Turner coached the team for 32 games from 2004 to 2005.

INJURIES/SUSPENSIONS

-- For the Raiders: RB Michael Bush (thumb) and DT Desmond Bryant (elbow) are listed as questionable. WR Chaz Schilens (knee), CB Walter McFadden (hamstring) and LB Travis Goethel (back) will not be in uniform. FB Luke Lawton is unavailable for the first three games of the season as he serves out his suspension.

-- For the Titans: DE Jacob Ford (back), WR Justin Gage (hand) and OL Leroy Harris (ankle) are listed as probable. LB Colin Allred (ankle), DT Tony Brown (knee) and DE William Hayes (knee) are listed as questionable. OT Mike Otto is out with a knee injury and LB Will Witherspoon is listed as being unavailable due to a death in his family.

RAIDERS' OFFENSE vs. TITANS' DEFENSE

As we've said plenty of times here at S&BI, this season's success will be predicated on how (consistently) well the offensive line can provide coverage an open up and maintain running lanes.

With that said, the Titans provide a good first test for Robert Gallery and company. Gone are the likes of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Keith Bullock and welcome DE William Hayes and DT Tony Brown.

Despite the change and per usual, the Titans defensive front is tough and likes to attack. The preseason reviews went well as this group of relative unknowns good physicality and an impressive ability to get to the quarterback.

Still, that's exactly the type of challenge the Raiders offensive line just might need.

Rookie Jared Veldheer will get the start at center and he has the arduous task of making the line calls in his first professional game. Veldheer will need to rely on veterans Robert Gallery and Cooper Carlisle to pick up the slack on the inside. The toughest challenge will be on the offensive tackles, Mario Henderson and Langston Walker. Those two will have to step up to take on a Titans defense that loves to rush the passer.

Jason Campbell makes his regular season debut for the Raiders so expect offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to get him started quickly. Jackson and Campbell will want to set the tempo early and gain momentum with some high percentage passes.

Barring a miracle, it appears Michael Bush will be out of the game so the spotlight is that much brighter on Darren McFadden. Anticipating the Titans' aggressiveness, expect Jackson to get McFadden the ball out in space on screen passes, an area where the Raiders had tremendous success this preseason.

The Raiders receivers will have a tough going against a tough and talented Titans secondary.

Cortland Finnegan is the main guy at corner but he also has two former Pro Bowlers backing him up at both safety spots in Michael Griffin and Chris Hope. Second-year corner Jason McCourty plays opposite Finnegan and he's no slouch either.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the Raiders' ability to set and control the tempo of the game. If the Raiders offensive line can't contain the pass rush, it's going to be a long day for the offense. Expect the Campell and company to come out firing early on bread-and-butter pass plays mixed with a few screen passes to put McFadden out into space.

Advantage: slight edge to the Titans

RAIDERS' DEFENSE vs. TITANS' OFFENSE

It's either the perfect test to start the season or a disaster waiting to happen.

The Raiders face arguably the league's top running back in Chris Johnson on Sunday, and the onus will be on the team's revamped defensive front to slow down the two-time Pro Bowler.

DT Richard Seymour told Nashville radio station WGFX that he believed the Raiders could hold Johnson in check. Seymour of course has never been one to hold back on the exaggerated claims. In response, all Johnson had to say was, "They must be dreaming."

The defensive front will have their work cut out for them as surely the Titans know that run defense is an area where the Raiders have struggled mightily in recent years. If Jeff Fisher knows what he's doing (and he does) he will give the ball to his star running back early and often.

The Raiders completely overhauled their starting linebackers by adding size, speed and versatility. It will be a daunting first challenge for rookie MLB Rolando McClain who will not only have to face Chris Johnson, but will have to keep an eye out on mobile QB Vince Young.

Expect the Titans to pound the ball on the ground against the Raiders and then go to the play action pass when they can utilize Young's speed and ability to make throws on the run. The Raiders have outside linebackers who are big, fast and love to rush the passer. That might neutralize Young a bit but not by much.

Advantage: Tennesee

SPECIAL TEAMS

Rod Bironas is one of the better kickers in the league. In NFL history, his career field goal percentage of 84.5 ranks him sixth all-time. P Brett Kern begins his first full season with the Titans after being picked up off waivers last season.

The Titans have two rookies return kickoffs and punts in Marc Mariani and Damian Williams. Many expected Williams to be the main return man for the Titans, but Mariani outperformed his fellow rookie teammate during the preseason to earn the starting job.

The Raiders are just as unproven in the return game as they failed to impress during the preseason. Rock Cartwright and Jacoby Ford are one and two on kickoffs while Johnnie Lee Higgins will handle punt return duties.

It's nearly a wash on special teams between Sebastian Janikwoski and Rod Bironas and both teams' unproven kicking games. However, as always, the reliable Shane Lechler will be called upon to save the Raiders offense from time to time and give the defense good field position to work with.

Advantage: Raiders

OUTCOME

The two things that matter most: one, if the Raiders defense can weather the storm that is Chris Johnson, and two, if the Raiders offense can contain the pass rush and control the tempo of the game.

While the offense might certainly impress by playing a solid game from start to finish, the defense will probably have a tough time containing the league's top running back.

Sorry, Raider fans. Moral victories don't mean much but the Raiders play tough but lose in a close one, 20-13.

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