3TFO: Titans @ Raiders, Week 12
This Week 12 matchup is going to be the last week in playoff contention for one of these two teams. The Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders both come into this game with 4-6 records. Things don’t get any easier after this game. The Raiders follow this one with road games at Dallas and at the Jets. The Titans go to Indianapolis first and then to Denver.
Both of these teams have had issues at quarterback all year. The Titans’ Jake Locker was showing some signs of being able to be the franchise quarterback, but injuries have kept him on the sidelines. Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the start this game. For Oakland, it started with the Matt Flynn experiment, moved forward to Terrelle Pryor, and now on to Matt McGloin.
The Raiders have struggled across the board. Both their offense and defense come in ranked 26th or below in our PFF cumulative team grades. The Titans have also struggled offensively, but their defense has been a strong point overall. They rank in our Top 10 in overall defense, pass coverage, and in cumulative pass rush. The solid Titans’ defense leads to our first matchup to take a look at.
Jurrell Casey vs. Lucas Nix
Jurrell Casey is currently PFF’s fifth-highest rated interior lineman. He does most of his damage with his pass rushing ability. His 37 pressures ranks third and his 9.5 Pass Rush Productivity is fifth. He still grades out positively in the run game as well. Last year he did most of his damage in the run game and his pass rush was almost non-existent with only 13 QB pressures for the whole season. This year he is showing the ability to be an all-around dominant presence.
Oakland guard Lucas Nix has not shown the ability this year to be able to contain Casey. He is currently the worst-graded guard in the league. His -36.9 grade is equally bad in the passing game (-21.7) and in the run game (-15.6). His 90.4% Pass Blocking Efficiency would be the worst PFF has ever seen from a guard. Expect to see the Raiders consistently double-team Jurrell Casey. Center Stefen Wisniewski has been a bright spot for the Raider offensive line. Look for him to help out. His Pass Blocking Efficiency of 98.7% is second among all centers in the league and overall he is PFF’s third-ranked center. If they do double-team Jurrell Casey, the Raiders just have to hope the rest of their offensive line can hold up in all of the other one-on-one matchups.
Lamarr Houston vs. Michael Roos
One of the Raiders’ top performers is DE Lamarr Houston. He has been a force against the run this season. His 24 stops lead all 4-3 ends and his 10.4% Run Stop Percentage ranks second overall. He has struggled a little with his pass rush this year (grading negatively in that aspect), but he still leads the Raiders with 28 pressures and five sacks. This week will be a huge test for Houston. He is matching up with one of the better tackles in the league in Michael Roos, and is dealing with a running back in Chris Johnson who loves to bounce runs to the outside and put pressure on the edges. How Lamarr Houston does with setting the edge in the run game and how well he generates pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick could go a long ways toward deciding this game.
Michael Roos will have the task of neutralizing Houston. Roos is currently our 11th-rated tackle overall. He grades positively in all aspects; pass blocking, run blocking, screen blocking, and doesn’t commit a lot of penalties. He isn’t particularly dominant in one area but is just a steady and solid left tackle. He has been heating up lately and has only allowed three hurries in his last three games. Let’s see if that trend can continue.
Matt McGloin vs. Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty
The Raiders have named Matt McGloin the starter after his three touchdown performance last week. Will he be the guy going forward or is it still going to end up being Terrelle Pryor’s job? Pryor still has all of the physical tools and is still has our highest run grade for a quarterback. Pryor, though, has been unable to take advantage of defenses down the field. We only have small sample sizes for McGloin, but we can still take a look at some of his numbers. McGloin and Pryor both have very similar PFF quarterback ratings so far with McGloin just over 77 and Pryor over 74. One huge difference between the two is the ability to throw the deep ball. McGloin is hitting his deep passes at a 57.1% rate compared to 32% for Pryor. McGloin is also getting the ball out much faster. He is averaging 2.44 seconds to throw to 3.47 for Pryor. This full second can do wonders for the Raider offensive line. The early returns on McGloin are encouraging, now we just need to see if he has any consistency. The corners he faces this weekend will give him the test he needs.
The Tennessee Titans have two great players at a premium position. In Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner, they have two of PFF’s top five graded cornerbacks in the league. Jason McCourty is currently ranked sixth in coverage and has only allowed a single touchdown pass. He has allowed two-thirds of passes his way to be completed, but always limits the damage and always seems to be in the right position. Alterraun Verner is having one of the best seasons of any cornerback that PFF has ever graded. He is currently second to Darrelle Revis in our overall rankings. His +15.4 grade also includes a +10.8 grade in coverage. The other stats are what tell the whole story. Not since 2010 has someone (Darrelle Revis) allowed a lower catch rate. Verner is only allowing 40.4% of throws his way to be completed. Quarterbacks also have a ridiculous 23.0 quarterback rating when throwing at him. This would be the lowest PFF has recorded (started tracking in 2008). He is yet to allow a touchdown and his five picks lead the league. Verner did make the PFF Midseason All-Pro team. Now it’s about time for him to get some of the national recognition he deserves. Matt McGloin might be better off keeping his throws over the middle and away from these two corners.
You can follow Chris on Twitter: @PFF_CPhillips