Titans, Raiders battle to remain in playoff race

Field Level Media

December 05, 2019 at 9:53 am.

The Tennessee Titans and host Oakland Raiders will treat each other like playoff opponents when the postseason hopefuls go head-to-head Sunday in a game that figures to have significant ramifications in the AFC race.

With four games remaining, the Titans (7-5) enter the battle of second-place teams in better shape than the Raiders (6-6) in the AFC wild-card chase.

Sunday’s outcome, barring a tie, will either give Oakland the overall edge on Tennessee (based on a head-to-head tiebreaker of teams with the same record) or basically eliminate the Raiders from wild-card contention (two games behind the Titans with three to play, with Tennessee holding the tiebreaker).

“We would love to make the playoffs. We would love to win a championship. That’s out of our control right now,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden noted in the wake of a 40-19 blowout loss to Kansas City on Sunday that dropped his club two games back of the Chiefs (8-4) in the AFC West and one behind Tennessee and Pittsburgh in the duel for the AFC’s second wild-card spot.

“We’re going to focus on the Titans,” he continued. “We can’t control who’s playing who and what the scores are in other places. We have to control the things we can control.”

The Raiders have lost two in a row after a 6-4 start that, after Week 11, had them a game ahead of the Titans.

But Tennessee has ridden a rejuvenated Ryan Tannehill to three consecutive wins, and now finds itself in a position in which winning out will assure the Titans of just their second playoff berth since 2008.

That’s because two of their remaining four games are against AFC South leader Houston (8-4). The Titans sandwich those two showdowns with a visit from one of the NFC’s best, the New Orleans Saints.

Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel has warned his guys: Beating the Texans might not matter if they lay an egg in Oakland.

“We’re focused on the team that’s 4-1 at the Oakland Coliseum,” Vrabel told reporters Wednesday. “A defense that gives up 20 points a game at the Oakland Coliseum. An offense that averages 360 yards at the Oakland Coliseum. And a team that is plus-4 in turnover margin at home.”

Indeed, the Raiders have won three in a row in Oakland, sweeping Detroit, the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati before going on the road and losing to the New York Jets and Kansas City.

The Raiders have won three in a row against the Titans, sweeping consecutive road games in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Tennessee’s last win in the series came in its last trip to Oakland, a 23-19 triumph in 2013.

The duel between former Alabama star running backs Derrick Henry and Josh Jacobs will be a first.

Henry, who rushed for 3,591 yards in three years at Alabama before being a second-round NFL pick in 2016, ranks third in the NFL in both rushing with 1,140 yards and touchdowns with 13.

Jacobs, a rookie first-round pick who arrived on the Alabama campus one year after Henry left with a Heisman Trophy and accumulated 1,491 rushing yards in three seasons, ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing with 1,061 yards and is tied for 14th in touchdowns with seven.