Raiders superior but cannot stagger early

On paper Oakland is superior to Tennessee but it can ill-afford a Music City meltdown early.


The common belief is that the exhibition season means zilch.

            Very true, indeed.

            The question, however, remains can the Oakland Raiders suddenly turn on the switch when the regular season opens Sunday night on the road against the Tennessee Titans?

            It's a fair observation since Oakland went 1-3 in the preseason and looked progressively worse in doing such. One thing is for sure; the Raiders cannot stagger in the early going Sunday night.

            Oakland beat the Titans twice last season, 52-25 in the regular season, and 41-24 in the AFC Championship Game.

While stating that the Raiders are better than the Titans is not solving the mystery of the universe, the position-by-position breakdown would bear out that idea. Defensive end is the only position where you can say Tennessee has a decisive edge over Oakland. Wide receiver and cornerback are two positions where the Raiders are definitively better than Tennessee.

The Raiders would merit the advantage at offensive tackle, center, defensive tackle, linebacker and the kicking game. Tight end, offensive guard, quarterback, and return specialists are close enough to where you make a case for either side. Granted, Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon was the NFL MVP last season but a very compelling argument could have been made for Tennessee QB Steve McNair.

There are, however, two factors in the Titans – weather and the home crowd.

You can replicate crowd noise in practice with blaring loud speakers. You cannot, however, bring the Southeastern humidity to Northern California. Sure, both teams will play in the same conditions Sunday and it's not as if it will be a muggy 88 degrees for the Raiders and a balmy 65 for the Titans.

Oakland, however, can ill-afford to fall behind by more than 10 points, especially early in the game. If that situation takes place, the Raiders will not only be fighting the Titans but the crowd and weather as well.

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