Pick Six: Will Raiders' defensive line come alive against Tannehill and the Titans?

It's hard to overstate the importance of Sunday's game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

The good news? The Oakland Raiders are playing meaningful football in December, and still definitely in the thick of things in the AFC playoff picture. The bad news? They're still technically on the outside looking in, and need to get back to their winning ways in a hurry if they want to stay in the hunt.

Luckily for them, a win over the visiting Tennessee Titans would go a long way in keeping the Silver and Black relevant, but it won't be an easy task as Mike Vrabel's team has won five of their last six matchups.

Kickoff at the OACC is scheduled for 1:25 PM; here are six things to watch once Week 14 gets underway.

1. The Battle of the 'Backs

Both the Raiders and the Titans love to pound the rock, and both squads have starting running backs who are pretty darn good at doing just that.

With back-to-back Rookie of the Month winner Josh Jacobs on one sideline, and Derrick Henry on the other, the two University of Alabama products have produced a combined 2,201 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns thus far in 2019.

While Jacobs and Henry won't be lining up against one another Sunday afternoon – barring something really funky – you best believe that whichever one of them has the better day will go a long way in securing a win for their team.

Two backs enter, let's see which one starts off December on the right foot.

Roll Tide.

2. The Tannehill must go down

As well as the Titans have been playing as of late – and make no mistake, they've been playing good football – one area where they've still struggled is keeping their quarterback upright.

Through 12 games, Tennessee has allowed 49 sacks – tied for the most in the league – so keep an eye on the Raiders' defensive line to see if they can make life difficult for Tannehill Sunday afternoon.

While the Silver and Black's pass rush has been inconsistent at times throughout 2019, particularly when the group plays home, the group seems to come alive.

Let's not forget that the last time Maxx Crosby played at the OACC, the dynamic rookie tallied an insane four sacks in the Raiders' Week 11 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Asking for another four might be a little greedy, but some consistent pressure on the Tennessee quarterback would go a long way to secure a Raiders W.

3. Does DC return to form?

The Derek Carr that we've seen over the past two weeks isn't the version of DC that we've become familiar with over the past several years.

In the two games following the win over the Bengals, the offense has struggled to gain its footing, and while those struggles don't fall squarely on No. 4's shoulders, he knows that in order for the team to make a December run, he's going to have to play better.

Prior to everything that has happened the past two weeks, Carr was playing some of the best, most efficient football, and for that reason, I think Weeks 12 and 13 were more the exception than the rule.

The Titans allow on average 204 passing yards – a metric that ranks just 27th in the NFL – so keep an eye on DC to see if he takes advantage of what the Titans give him.

4. Limit the penalties

Last week, while the Raiders certainly didn't play their best football of '19 at Arrowhead Stadium, they unquestionably didn't help their case by committing a staggering 12 penalties against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now, I have to say that some of the calls were questionable at best, but regardless, you can't give up nearly 100 penalty yards against a team like the Chiefs and hope to fly home with a W.

With nearly 800 penalty yards on the season, the Titans are also among the most penalized teams in the NFL, so keep an eye on the laundry Sunday afternoon to see if either team is able to clean up their errors.

In particular for the Raiders – whose penalties as of late seemingly come at the absolute worst times – I'm hoping that they can clean up the self-inflicted wounds and give the Titans the best version of themselves for a full 60 minutes.

5. Don't let Tannehill beat you with his legs

While Ryan Tannehill has been reborn in Music City, the athletic quarterback hasn't really changed his game all that much, and as such, he's a guy who you have to respect in the run game.

Tannehill has only started six games this season, but he already has three rushing touchdowns, and with just two more rushing yards, he's be in sole position of the No. 2 spot on the Titans.

We've heard all week about the fact that Tannehill has some sneaky athleticism in his arsenal, and the best way to take that away from No. 17 is to keep him in the pocket.

We talked earlier about the pass rush, and even if Maxx Crosby, Benson Mayowa and the boys can't take down Tannehill behind the line of scrimmage, keeping him in the pocket, and forcing him to try to beat the Raiders with his arm is a win in and of itself.

6. You guessed it…. the weather

I feel like a meteorologist as of late, but here we are again…. Will the weather play a role in Sunday's game?

The Silver and Black have played consecutive games where Mother Nature has said hello, and it appears as though that could be the case once again Sunday afternoon at the OACC.

As it stands now, we're looking at rain Sunday morning, but it looks like it'll clear up before our 1:25 PM kickoff. That said, we all know how fickle the weather can be – let's be honest, even the weather folks are guessing half the time – but a look at the radar Sunday morning would certainly be in everyone's best interest.

The rains, winds, and snow haven't been kind to the 2019 Raiders, but Head Coach Jon Gruden's group will need to find a way to handle business at home, regardless of the conditions, if they want to keep their playoff aspirations alive.

I hate the term "must win" unless it's an elimination game, but if the Raiders want to stay relevant down the stretch, they absolutely need a W Sunday afternoon at the OACC.

As the Silver and Black get ready to host the Tennessee Titans in Week 14, take a look back at their past matchups through the years.

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