The Oakland Raiders have now lost three games in a row and haven't tasted victory since their Week 8 win over the New York Jets, but now have their eyes squarely set on a critical road matchup with the Tennessee Titans Sunday afternoon at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.
The Silver and Black now hold a record of 4-6 and need a win to propel themselves back into the AFC playoff conversation, so before the team takes off for Music City, let's double-check our matchups of the week, brought to you by State Farm.
Oakland Raiders Offensive Line vs. Tennessee Titans Pass Rush
As they say, NFL games are won in the trenches, and Sunday's clash at Nissan Stadium figures to follow suit.
Throughout the season, the Raiders offensive line has kept Derek Carr clean for the most part, and given the second-year signal caller time to make his reads and deliver the football.
They face a big challenge this weekend though, in the form of a Titans defense that is ranked fourth in the NFL with 33 total sacks.
"Tons of sacks. Tons of them," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said when asked about the Titans front seven. "Twelve in the last three games. A lot of movement. A lot of effort. I've known [Brian] Orakpo over the years when he was with the Redskins. A high-effort fella, just never quits. They look great on film."
If the Raiders want to buck their recent losing streak, it'll be imperative for Carr to have time to operate, and a quality performance by the offensive line would go a long way to make sure that happens.
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper vs. Quarterback Marcus Mariota
The matchup with the Titans showcases two of the Top Five picks in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Marcus Mariota, the quarterback from the University of Oregon, was selected with the second-overall pick, and Cooper, the standout wide receiver from the University of Alabama, was taken by the Silver and Black just two picks later.
Players from the same draft class, particularly those that are taken so close together, find themselves constantly compared throughout their careers – and Mariota and Cooper will be no exception.
While the two won't go against each other head-to-head, if either were able to deliver an impressive performance Sunday, it would bode very well for their respective teams.
Linebacker Malcolm Smith vs. Tight End Delanie Walker
Head Coach Jack Del Rio said it best Tuesday – a lot of what the Titans want to do offensively goes through their tight ends, particularly Delanie Walker.
"Forty percent of their completions are going to the tight end position," Head Coach Del Rio said. "Obviously they have a former 49er doing a heck of a job. Delanie [Walker] is really a good football player, very talented. He's their leading receiver with over 50 catches. He's doing a heck of a job. He'll definitely be a guy that we have to have our eyes on."
Walker's 53 receptions are nearly twice as many as the team's second-leading receiver, and being able to eliminate that type of offensive weapon would pay huge dividends for the Raiders Sunday.
A quality tight end can be a young quarterback's best friend, and if Malcolm Smith and the rest of the Raiders defense can take away Mariota's safety net, it would be a huge win for the Silver and Black.