After two quarters of action on Sunday, the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans were neck and neck with each other, both tied at 21 entering the half; however, two very different teams came out of the locker room.
The Titans ran away with the ball game in the second half, adding an 21 more points to their total, while the Silver and Black put up a goose egg. The 42-21 loss was the Raiders' third consecutive "L" and Head Coach Jon Gruden told the media Monday what transpired in Week 14 won't happen again.
"Right now, we've got to play better, and we're going to play better, and there will be changes," Gruden exclaimed. "There will be changes. What happened yesterday will not happen again. I can't allow it to happen."
What Gruden means by "changes" I'm not entirely sure, but we'll just have to wait and see this Sunday. In preparation for the Raiders' final home game of 2019, let's take a look at the three matchups you should keep an eye on.
Maxx Crosby vs. Josh Allen
Josh Allen the quarterback? No, Josh Allen the pass rusher.
The commonly confused player is starting to gain more recognition, given what he's produced in his rookie season. The edge rusher out of the University of Kentucky was selected with the seventh overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he's been one of their biggest contributors all year. So far, Allen has totaled nine sacks, 36 pressures, two forced fumbles, and 36 tackles. Allen's nine sacks lead all rookie pass rushers, but Raiders fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby is just one-and-a-half sacks behind him in third.
Crosby didn't receive the buzz Allen did, but he's produced like a first-round pick this season for the Raiders, and has established himself as one of the standout rookies of the year. Crosby has 24 pressures, seven-and-a-half sacks, and 38 tackles to go along with three swatted passes and three forced fumbles.
The two talented pass rushers will be topics of discussion in production meetings this week, and watching them try to outdo the other will be fun to watch.
Raiders front seven vs. Leonard Fournette
Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Last week, the Raiders defense knew it would face a tough test in bruising running back Derrick Henry, and once again they'll be tasked with stopping another punishing ball carrier, Leonard Fournette.
Fournette, like Henry, is a top-eight running back in terms of rushing yards this season and owns a total of 1,039 rushing yards on the year. Don't sleep on the former LSU Tiger's ability to catch passes either, he has a career-high 68 receptions and 457 receiving yards.
On 18 carries in Week 14, Derrick Henry notched 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns to the tune of 5.7 yards per carry, which is surprising because the Raiders are allowing just 4.1 rushing yards per attempt through 13 games. There's something to be said though when facing a top-flight player in the league and Fournette is in that same group with Henry.
If the Silver and Black want to be successful this Sunday they'll need to eliminate the Jaguars' best offensive asset.
Darren Waller vs. Myles Jack
One of my favorite matchups on the football field is when a talented tight end and a physical linebacker lock horns.
This season, Darren Waller has burst onto the scene and quickly established himself as one of the best players at the tight end position, but in recent weeks he's cooled off. Undeniably one of Derek Carr's favorite targets, Waller can go off at any moment, but he'll be facing one of the better cover linebackers in the league this week.
Myles Jack is coming off his first 100-plus tackle season and is one of the Jaguars' key cogs in the middle of the field. Odds are, Jack will be the one to lineup against Waller and monitor his whereabouts at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. If Waller is able to create separation and Carr can find him open in the middle of the field regularly the Raiders offense should open up for the wide receivers.