Running Back Marshawn Lynch
The NFL season is *finally *here.
The New England Patriots and Kanas City Chiefs officially kicked off the 2017 slate of games Thursday night, and the Oakland Raiders will get their first taste of meaningful football Sunday afternoon at Nissan Stadium against the Tennessee Titans.
Before the Silver and Black square off with Marcus Mariota and Co., here are six things you should be watching for Sunday afternoon in Music City.
1. The battle between the quarterbacks
Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota suffered nearly identical injuries on the very same day (December 24) last year.
Now, nearly nine months later, both signal-callers are healthy, and once again in control of their respective offenses. Both Carr and Mariota played in the preseason, but there's no substitute for meaningful football, and both of the young gunslingers will get their first taste of regular season football post-injury Sunday afternoon.
While they go about their business between the hash marks a little differently, Carr and Mariota are both in the upper echelon of young quarterbacks in the NFL, and it'll be fun to watch them go back and forth for four quarters.
2. Our first *real *look at Beast Mode
Yes, we've seen Marshawn Lynch carry the ball a few times throughout the preseason, but we haven't really gotten an accurate look at what No. 24 is going to bring to the Raiders offense.
If our early indications can be trusted, it certainly looks like Lynch will provide the team's running back corps a powerful, gritty presence, that at times was lacking last season.
Even after a year away from the game, Lynch is one of the biggest personalities in the league, and seemingly everything he does –or doesn't do – becomes must-see TV.
Come Sunday, I'll be looking forward to seeing just how many touches he gets, and how Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing splits up the workload between him, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington.
And come on, you know you've been waiting for Lynch's next highlight play, Beast Mode-type run.
3. How does the defense look?
You've heard the narrative all offseason, and throughout training camp and the preseason; the Raiders offense has the ability to be one of the best in the NFL, but the defense still has some question marks surrounding it.
Look, regardless of what happens, and how the unit performs Sunday, that likely won't be an accurate representation of how the defense will fare in 2017.
Led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, Ken Norton, Jr.'s group certainly isn't at a loss for playmakers, so keep an eye on how they handle their first meaningful action of 2017 this Sunday.
They'll undoubtedly have their hands full too, as they square off against Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker, and the rest of the Titans offense.
4. How does Donald Penn hold up on the left side?
After missing the duration of Training Camp 2017, the veteran left tackle returned to work prior to the Raiders preseason bout with the Dallas Cowboys, playing 19 snaps in his first game back in pads.
He didn't play in the preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks, so Sunday's game against the Titans figures to be his longest stretch of work since the end of the 2016 regular season.
Now entering his 12th NFL season, Penn prides himself on keeping his body right, so I can't imagine playing an entire NFL game will throw a wrench in big No. 72's conditioning.
That being said, he's going to have his work cut out for him Sunday, so I'm excited to see how he – along with the whole Raiders offensive line – responds.
5. Paint it black
According to our friends at weather.com, the high temperature Sunday in Nashville is going to be 80 degrees with 10 mile per hour winds coming out of the northeast.
Now, that forecast is certainly not some unbearable type weather, but nonetheless, the Titans have elected to wear their white uniforms, meaning that the Raiders will wear their home black jerseys come Sunday.
I'll be honest, I kind of like when the team wears black on the road…
6. Raider Nation, stand up
Every time we go on the road, I'm always pleasantly surprised by how strong of a presence Raider Nation has in each of the opposing stadiums.
This weekend, opening the regular season against an AFC opponent, I expect much of the same once again from diehard fans of the Silver and Black.
Make Music City your own, Raider Nation; here's to hoping Nissan Stadium is painted Silver and Black Sunday.