Fantasy Football Doctors Podcast Week 13: The Final Playoff Push!

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Your hosts: Dr. Vasu Vaddiparty & Dr. Charlie O

  • Who should you choose to replace Andy Dalton at QB?
  • Check that waiver wire for hidden gems that other players have forgotten about
  • Jameis Winston may be a big play again this week
  • Lamar Jackson from the Ravens may be the answer to your QB troubles
  • Marcus Mariota and the Titans face the Jets–that could be a good play
  • If you have Josh Adams, is he a starter this Sunday?
  • Austin Ekeler may be the right play for Melvin Gordon
  • Emmanuel Sanders is the right play this weekend
  • The Panthers Greg Olsen might be a numbers maker vs. the Bucs

Good luck this weekend and we hope to see you in the playoffs!

Sports Monday: The NFL Playoffs never lacks excitement

Photo credit: @NFL

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

Like most football fans, I was glued to my couch for most of the weekend watching the NFL’s best weekend of the year: the divisional round of the playoffs.

The divisional round usually features the best competitive games of the year as the eight remaining teams fight for their right to play in the conference championship games the very next week; with the winners heading to the Super Bowl.

With the Falcons losing to the Eagles, 15-10, in Philadelphia to kickoff the divisional round Saturday, their will be a new NFC Champion heading to Minneapolis on Feb. 4 for Super Bowl 52.

Sixth-seeded Atlanta (11-7) was trying to make a return trip to the NFC Championship Game and eventually back to the Super Bowl after last year’s painful loss in the Big Game to the New England Patriots after dropping a 28-3 lead, but Matt Ryan and Co. couldn’t get pass an Eagles team that were heavy underdogs coming into the game even as the NFC’s top seed with a 13-3 regular season and home field advantage.

And oh yeah, Philadelphia was playing without MVP front-runner and franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, who was lost for the season with a torn anterior crucial ligament in his left knee he suffered against the Rams in Los Angeles in Week 14.

Backup quarterback Nick Foles made every Eagles fan hold their collective breaths whenever he took a snap, played efficient football throwing for 246 yards on 23-of-30 passing with no touchdowns, but more importantly, zero interceptions. Foles kept Atlanta’s defense off guard for most of the afternoon as Philadelphia controlled the football for 32 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for the Falcons. Philadelphia converted 6-of-13 on third downs, while the Falcons were just 4-of-13 on third down conversions.

But the Falcons still had a chance to win a game, but Ryan and superstar wide receiver Julio Jones couldn’t connect on fourth-and-two from the Eagles’ own two-yard line with 1:05 left in the game. Jones, who finished with nine catches for 101 yards, slipped in the end zone and saw the pass slip right through his hands. Even if Jones makes the catch, his feet would’ve been out of bounds when you look at the replay.

Jones felt that he should’ve came up with the catch and made no excuses after the game.

“It was a sprintout, a rollout to me,” said Jones after the game per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure following the game. “Trying to take advantage of one-on-one [coverage] down there.

“I don’t know, but at the end of the day, I can make those plays. I ended up on the ground when I came out of my route. And that’s a tough call [for the official] to make during that situation in the game. That was it.”

Ryan finished the game throwing for 210 yards on 22-of-36 passing. Atlanta’s franchise quarterback did throw a six-yard touchdown to running back Devonta Freeman to give the Falcons a 10-6 lead in the second half, but Atlanta’s red zone woes that haunted them in the regular season (23rd in the NFL in red zone efficiency at 49.1-percent per ESPN Stats and Info), reared its ugly head.

“Just keep on disrespecting and we’re going to keep proving people wrong,” said Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey after the game to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philadelphia (14-3) will host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field for the NFC Championship at 6:40 p.m. ET, which should be a great matchup given what the Vikings had to do to setup a date with the Eagles with a chance to play the Super Bowl in their own building, which would be the first time a team would play in the stadium where the Super Bowl is being held in NFL history.

Minnesota (14-3) had to rely on a 61-yard touchdown thrown from quarterback Case Keenum to wide receiver Stefon Diggs with 10 seconds remaining down the sideline to pull out an improbable 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the other NFC divisional playoff game Sunday. The play was reminiscent of a walk-off home run in baseball for the home team.

Diggs’ heart-pounding score sent a raucous sold out crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium into a frenzy as the stadium reached 118 decibels per reports. Diggs finished with six catches for 137 yards and the game-winning touchdown that cemented the Vikings’ first trip to the conference championship game in eight years.

“It’s a storybook ending — and it never ends that way,” Diggs said after the game to Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Usually, it’s reality. It’s real life. Things go, you walk home and worry about tomorrow. But today had other plans. I give it all to God, because things like this just don’t happen.”

After falling behind 17-0 to the Vikings at halftime, the fourth-seeded Saints stormed back with 14 unanswered points behind two touchdown passes from quarterback Drew Brees to wide receiver Michael Thomas that trimmed Minnesota’s lead to 17-14. Thomas’ two touchdowns came within a span of 3:09 that spanned into the fourth quarter.

Following a 49-yard field goal from kicker Kai Forbath that gave Minnesota a 20-14 lead early in the fourth quarter and an interception thrown by Keenum to rookie safety Marcus Williams that set up the Saints at the Vikings’ 40-yard line, Brees threw his third touchdown in the second half when he connected with rookie running back Alvin Kamara from 14-yards out that gave the Saints a brief 21-20 lead.

Brees finished the game throwing for 294 yards on 25-of-40 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions, both coming in the first half.

“We’re still a bit shell-shocked after what happened there at the end,” said Brees after the game per the Associated Press.

But it was the big play by Diggs, who avoided a would-be hit by Williams and never looked back as he raced for the end zone for arguably the biggest touchdown in Minnesota’s history, a perfect delivered pass from the NCAA’s all-time passing leader in Keenum, who threw for 318 yards and matched Brees’ 25-of-40 passing.

On the AFC side, the top-seeded Patriots (14-3) made short work of the visiting Tennessee Titans (10-8), winning 35-14 on Saturday night advancing to their seventh straight AFC Championship Game next Sunday in Foxborough with a dominating performance over the sixth-seeded Titans in the chilly New England weather where game time temperature were in the 20s.

After taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, Tennessee saw New England roll off 35 unanswered points that led to the Patriots’ dismantling of the Titans. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 337 yards on 35-of-53 passing and three touchdowns, his 10th career postseason game in which he’s thrown three touchdowns moving past Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana for most in the NFL per the Elias Sports Bureau.

“To be in the playoffs, to play well and to advance, that’s just really great for this team,” Brady said to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “We’ve got to do it again next week.”

Wide receiver Danny Amendola, one of Brady’s most dependable pass catchers, finished with a team-high 11 catches for 112 yards. Tight end Rob Gronkowski hauled in six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown over Titans safety Kevin Byard, who predicted that Tennessee would make the future NFL Hall of Famer look like Blake Bortles.

More on Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who stand in the way of Brady from making his eighth Super Bowl appearance in his 18-year career that includes five wins in seven appearances, in a bit.

After the game, Brady was business as usual after leading New England pass by an overmatched Titans team that were doomed from the start. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota played through a strained quadriceps muscle that he suffered on run in the first quarter that limited the Mariota’s mobility and Tennessee’s playcalling for the remainder of the game.

Mariota completed 22-of-37 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but was under siege from Patriots’ pass rush that sacked Mariota eight times on Saturday night, a franchise record for one postseason game.

“Embarrassed,” said Mariota, standing at the podium after the game per the Associated Press.

“You play to win the whole thing. Yeah, it’s nice to be in the playoffs, but again, you don’t play to get in, especially coming into the divisional playoff losing the way we did.”

Raise your hands if you had the Jacksonville Jaguars heading to their first AFC Championship Game since 1999 at the start of the 2017.

Anybody?

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t because you aren’t alone, especially with the aforementioned Bortles leading the way. For most of his four seasons in Jacksonville, Bortles was the favorite punching bag for Jaguars fans (and the media) to hit for the team’s lackluster play even with a vastly improving defense with to lean on.

But the perception of Bortles is rapidly changing, especially after help leading the third-seeded Jaguars (12-6) to 45-42 victory over the second-seeded Steelers (13-4) at Heinz Field to close out the divisional round weekend. Bortles didn’t have earth-shattering numbers, completing just 14-of-26 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, but didn’t throw an interception nor was he sacked in Jacksonville’s second win in Pittsburgh this year. Pittsburgh set a franchise record with 55 sacks this season, leading the NFL this season.

Jacksonville dispatched Pittsburgh 30-9 in Week 5 behind a punishing defense that forced five interceptions, returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns.

In that regular season game, Bortles was a non factor as he threw for just 95 yards on 8-of-14 passing and an interception, but the offense was carried by ground game as rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed for a career-high 181 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns, one of which went for 90 yards, the longest scoring run by a rookie against the Steelers per the Elias Sports Bureau.

This time around, Bortles appeared more confident and comfortable against Pittsburgh.

Jacksonville’s 45 points are the most points scored by an opponent against the Steelers in franchise history. Fournette scored two first half touchdowns, while backup running back T.J. Yeldon added another score that gave Jacksonville a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter before the Steelers answered with a touchdown of their own from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Antonio Brown that cut Jacksonville’s lead to 21-7.

Fournette, who left the game briefly with an ankle injury, rushed for a 109 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns.

Shortly before the two minute warning and with Pittsburgh on the Jacksonville 47-yard line, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue sacked Roethislisberger forcing a fumble which was returned by middle linebacker Telvin Smith that gave Jacksonville a 28-7 lead. It was Smith’s second defensive touchdown against the Steelers this season, also finished with a team-high 14 tackles.

Roethlisberger would throw a 36-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Martavis Bryant before the end of the first half, then a 19-yard touchdown pass to running back Le’Veon Bell pulling the Steelers closer, 28-21, in the third quarter.

But Bortles made the biggest play of the game in my book, throwing a 45-yard bomb down the middle of the field in double coverage with 11:55 left in the fourth quarter that was hauled in by rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole that set up the Jaguars at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line before Fournette plowed into the end zone for his third rushing touchdown that re-opened a two-touchdown lead for Jacksonville making the score, 35-21.

“These guys played with confidence all day,” Bortles said after the game per the Florida Times-Union.

Jacksonville would add 10 more points in the fourth quarter, while the Steelers played catch up (pun intended) for the majority of the day despite big performances by Pittsburgh’s “Killer Bs” of Roethlisberger, Bell and Le’Veon Brown.

Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards on 37-of-58 passes, with five touchdowns and one interception. Brown, who appeared healthy following a torn left calf muscle he suffered in Week 15 against the Patriots that caused him to miss the Steelers’ final two games of the year, finished with seven catches for 132 yards and a pair of spectacular touchdowns.

Bell finished with 155 total yards from scrimmage (67 rushing and 88 receiving) and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving).

“Its disheartening” said Brown per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought we had the right group of guys.”

The conference championship games between Minnesota-Philadelphia in the NFC and Jacksonville-New England in the AFC weren’t what people imagined when the 2017 season started, even though most fully believed that the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots had the strongest chance at making another Super Bowl run.

Minnesota and Philadelphia did enter the season with postseason expectations, and should be a fierce matchup led by unwanted quarterbacks in Keenum and Foles along with strong defenses, and fan bases thirsty for a major championship.

Jacksonville wasn’t suppose to crash the postseason party, but here are the Jaguars who now must travel to New England and try to dethrone Brady and the Patriots to earn the franchise’s first trip to the Super Bowl.

“I’m sure there will still be tons of people that are going to disapprove and talk negative or hate or do whatever they want,” Bortles said before the Jaguars left Pittsburgh. “But we get to keep playing and we get an opportunity to play in Foxborough next week  for another week. Just honored to be able to do this especially with this group of guys.”

“Its been an awesome year. Just want to keep it going.”

Raiders visit Tennessee Titans Sunday in key Week 1 matchup that could be playoff preview

AP File Photo: Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) smiles on the sideline during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — Finally, the NFL regular season is here.

For me, the preseason schedule is nothing more than a dinner salad. It’s just there to help me pass the time until my main course (preferably a grilled salmon with broccoli and red potatoes or homemade spaghetti), is brought to my table.

Bring on the “meal” that is the NFL regular season.

Week 1 has some great matchups that can set the tone for the 2017 season: Kansas City traveling to Foxborough to take on the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Thursday night in the league’s kickoff game, Seattle at Lambeau Field to take on the Packers and Dallas hosting the New York Giants on Sunday.

Add the Raiders against the Titans in Nashville to that list of games.

Oakland has been picked by many national publications and experts as a trending opponent to play New England in the AFC Championship Game (the Raiders “host” the Patriots on Nov. 19 in Mexico City), but the true test starts against Tennessee at 1:00 p.m. ET (12:00 p.m. CT/10:00 a.m. PT) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

The Raiders are making their second straight trip to Nashville for a regular season game. Oakland defeated the Titans 17-10 in Week 3 last season.

Derek Carr threw for 249 yards with one touchdown and an interception, while the defense forced three turnovers to pace the Silver and Black to victory that day.

Carr posted his second consecutive season with at least 25 touchdowns passes (28) and 3,900 yards (3,937) after throwing 3,987 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2015.

The Raiders raced out to a 10-2 start in 2016 before a 2-2 finish, highlighted by Carr’s season-ending leg injury that doomed Oakland’s chances in the playoffs. Oakland had no chance against the Texans in the AFC wild-card playoff game with rookie Connor Cook under center and lost 27-14 in Houston, there first playoff appearance since 2002 when I was just a freshmen in college.

With additions like running back Marshawn Lynch, tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the offseason through free agency to go along with wide receivers Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts, Oakland has the offensive talent to match any team in the league score-for-score.

The Silver and Black finished with the NFL’s sixth-ranked offense averaging 26 points per game last season so its a virtual guarantee that the offense can score more this season.

Will longtime kicker Sebastian Janikowski still handle the kicking duties for Oakland this season? Janikowski and the team are at crossroads on a contract that the Raiders want to restructure that pays Oakland’s all-time leader in games played (268) $4.05 million this season, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

At 39, Janikowski said he wanted to kick for the Raiders when the team moves to Las Vegas in 2020. The veteran kicker has been dealing with back issues that kept his out of the team’s final two preseason games.

On Monday, the Raiders worked out three kickers: Mike Nugent, Josh Lambo and Marshall Koehn.

With Janikowski still on the roster Tuesday, he’s collected $238,000, representing one-seventeenth of Janikowski’s salary or one game-check. If Janikowski is still on the roster Saturday at 1:00 p.m. PT, the remainder of his contract becomes fully guaranteed.

Defensively?

The strength of the unit will come from defensive end Khalil Mack, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year after recording a team-leading 11.0 of Oakland’s league-low 25 sacks in 2016.

Mack is tougher than sandpaper to block.

Double- and even triple-teams seems to not work on a guy that also registered a pick-6 (interception returned for touchdown) last season. Mack had a stretch where he recorded at least one sack in eight straight weeks.

Linebacker Bruce Irvin finished second on the team with 7.0 sacks, but has double-digit sack talent. Irvin was tied with Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley for the league lead with six forced fumbles in 2016.

Oakland is high on rookie defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, the team’s third-round pick in this year’s draft out of UCLA. Vanderdoes had an impressive training camp and showing in preseason games and has cemented a starting spot on the defensive line.

But Oakland still has a bag of footballs at middle linebacker, with rookie Marquel Lee as a starter and second-year player Tyrell Adams as the backup. Lee was decent against the run in preseason, but still has to improve in pass coverage against running backs out of the backfield and tight ends over the middle of the field.

In the secondary, David Amerson is Oakland’s best cornerback. TJ Carrie is expected to start at the other cornerback spot since high-priced free agent addition Sean Smith can’t cover speedy wide receivers. Smith was working as a hybrid safety/linebacker in training camp covering tight ends with the second-team defense, and lined up as the fourth cornerback when the offense deployed four wide receivers in drills.

The hope is once this year’s first-round draft pick, cornerback Gareon Conley steps onto the field, he’ll surpass the entire group. Conley didn’t play in the preseason and barely took reps with the team during training camp as he dealt with legal issues and litany of nagging injuries.

Second-round draft pick Obi Melifonwu, who the team hoped would contribute at safety, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after battling a knee injury during training camp.

The earliest that Melifonwu could return would be Week 8.

Some pundits are questioning with players like linebacker Perry Riley Jr., who was signed by Oakland off the street last season and was the team’s starting middle linebacker the rest of the way and cornerback Joe Haden available via trade this season, why didn’t the Raiders, a legitimate Super Bowl contender, upgrade those key spots on a defense that finished ranked 26th in total defense last season?

The overlooking of a strong middle linebacker and a sturdy cornerback may come back to bite the Raiders in key situations this season, as it did last season.

Like Oakland, Tennessee has a hot, young signal-caller that is returning from a leg injury of his own and have the Titans thinking playoffs for the first time since 2008 in quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mariota had Tennessee on the brink of the playoffs last season at 8-7 before finishing tied at 9-7 with division rival Houston for the AFC South title, but Houston won the division due to a better division record (Houston was 5-1, Tennessee was 2-4) that left the Titans outside of the playoffs.

The former No. 2 overall pick by Tennessee out of Oregon threw for 3,426 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016. Mariota, just like Carr, is a mobile quarterback that will use his legs to get out of trouble.

Just like Carr, Mariota suffered his season-ending injury on Christmas Eve while being sacked by the opposing team’s defense.

The Titans’ running game could spell trouble for Oakland, especially with the physical running styles of both DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Tennessee boasted the NFL’s third-ranked rushing attack averaging 136.7 yards and Murray was a big reason for that.

The seventh-year running back from Oklahoma finished third in the NFL in 2016 in rushing with 1,287 yards and nine rushing touchdowns in his first season with Tennessee after a forgettable season 2015 season in Philadelphia.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Titans called 44-percent of rushing plays (2nd in the NFL) and was fourth in the league averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

Henry, a former Heisman Trophy winner, was selected by the Titans in the second round in the 2017 NFL draft, was second on the Titans with 490 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in his rookie campaign.

Wide receiver Rishard Matthews gives the Titans a big-play threat downfield that they haven’t had in forever.

Matthews quickly became one of Mariota’s trusted receivers last season in his first season with Tennessee after four seasons in Miami, finishing tied with tight end Delanie Walker for the team lead in catches with 65 to go along with 945 yards and leading the team with nine touchdown catches.

Walker gives Mariota a pass-catching threat that is tough as nails that Raiders safety Karl Joseph will have to keep an eye on come Sunday. After not playing in last season’s contest, Walker could be the difference maker this time around as Oakland has had trouble in recent years covering agile tight ends with linebackers and safeties.

Especially agile tight ends like Walker, who has been targeted by Mariota 159 times over the past two seasons. The 12-year veteran from Central Missouri State racked up 800 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches last season following a career-high season in 2015 when Walker had 94 catches for 1,088 yards and six touchdowns.

Tennessee’s first-round pick, wide receiver Corey Davis who didn’t play in the preseason while dealing with a hamstring injury, is expected to see action on Sunday but its unknown how many plays the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Davis will line up for.

The Titans did sign eight-year veteran wide receiver Eric Decker in the offseason to bolster the wide receiving corps for Tennessee, and has a hidden gem in rookie wide receiver Taywan Taylor in the event Davis doesn’t start.

It might not be the best week to start a Davis on your fantasy team, just some friendly advice.

On defense, Tennessee is quietly won of the better defenses in the league that no one really talks about led by defensive tackle and space-eater, Jurrell Casey, who is the 6-foot-1 and 305-pound clog in the middle of the Titans’ 3-4 defensive scheme ran by legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

Casey recorded 44 tackles for 5.0 sacks for a Titans defense that ranked 20th in total defense in 2016, finishing second in the league against the run surrendering just 88.3 yards per game and 30th against the pass yielding 269.2 yards through the air per game.

Tennessee’s pass rush is powered by outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Orakpo led the Titans with 10.5 sacks and Morgan was second on the team with 9.0 sacks.

Casey, Orakpo and Morgan combined for 23.5 of the Titans’ 40 sacks in 2016. Tennessee was just one of seven teams to record 40-plus sacks last season.

Inside linebackers Avery Williamson (team-leader in tackles with 104) and Wesley Woodyard (57 tackles) aren’t household names, but are consistent and provide additional support in the running game.

The player that I’m most intrigued to watch Sunday is second-year safety Kevin Byard.

The MTSU product didn’t record an interception during his rookie season after recording 19 interceptions (a career-high six during his junior season), but did finish third on the team with 58 tackles, four passes defensed and a sack in 16 games played. His seven starts were the most for a Titans rookie safety since Michael Griffin’s 10 starts in 2007 according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

At 5-foot-11 and 212 pounds, Byard isn’t the biggest safety, but his instincts and attention to detail is an important element for Tennessee’s defense.

Throw in free agent addition in cornerback Logan Ryan, a Super Bowl champion with New England and the drafting of USC’s speedster and highlight-maker Adoree’ Jackson, the Titans have talent in the secondary to compete with top-end wide receivers.

Sunday’s matchup between the Raiders and Titans could very well be a playoff preview that may not be decided until late in the fourth quarter.

The game’s outcome could be reminiscent of last season’s game when Tennessee had a would be game-tying touchdown from Mariota to wide receiver Andre Johnson that was called back due to an offensive pass interference call before the Raiders took over on downs two plays later.

Prediction: Raiders 27 Titans 23

 

 

 

Carr and the Raiders head to Tennessee for Week 3 tangle

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

AP photo: Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr gets a satisfactory moment last Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum against the Atlanta Falcons only to lose 35-28. Carr and the Raiders are preparing for the Tennessee Titans next Sunday

OAKLAND, Calif — Will the real Oakland Raiders please stand up?

Will the Raiders team that pulled out a dramatic 35-34  come-from-behind victory in New Orleans  in Week 1 show up Sunday in Tennessee against the Titans? Or the one that followed up a great win with a head-scratching 35-28 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons that saw the Raiders (1-1) be brought back down to earth?

I know that is a lot of questions, but seriously, the Oakland Raiders have plenty of questions to answer, most notably the lackluster play of the defense, a unit that has surrendered more than 1,000 yards in two games this season.

During the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss, head coach Jack Del Rio took over play calling from defensive coordinator Ken Norton. Del Rio mentioned that there will be changes coming and those changes will happen soon, which makes the seat under Norton a little warmer.

Oakland has a chance to flex some muscle against the Titans Sunday, which they hope can re-energize the team with getting a win

The Raiders travel to Music City to take on a Titans (1-1) that has shown promise early in the season, but has only managed to score just 16 points in two games.

Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota leads an offense with capable play-makers in tight end Delanie Walker, running backs DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry, and rookie wide receiver, Tajae Sharpe.

Mariota proved that he has grown up in the NFL in Year 2,  especially in the fourth quarter tossing two touchdowns in the final frame in the Titans’ 16-15 win last week in Detroit.

Mariota showed confidence and poise, leading the Titans on a 13-play, 83-yard drive, that culminated in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to the veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson with Mariota completed all nine of his passes for 74 yards on the Titans’ game-winning drive.

Walker, the Titans’ skilled tight, must be licking his chops as he should figure into the passing game heavily, as the Raiders allowed Falcon tight ends to record 10 catches and 180 last week.

But as much as Oakland has been torched by the opposition’s passing game this season, the Raiders must contend with a Titans’ running game that gave the team problems during Tennessee’s 27-14 victory over the Raiders in Oakland during the preseason.

Both Murray and Henry combined for 20 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns, and found huge holes in the Raiders’ defensive front.

Oakland is looking for another win in Nashville, rallying to beat the Titans 24-21 on Nov. 30, 2015 as quarterback Derek Carr found wide receiver Seth Roberts for the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter.

For the season, Carr has thrown for 618 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, while second-year wide receiver Amari Cooper leads Oakland with 208 yards receiving.

 

 

Oakland Raiders commentary: Carr impresses, but Titans get win over Raiders

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

AP photo: Oakland Raiders running back DeAndre Washington gets broadsided by the Tennessee Titans linebacker Sean Spence in the second half of Saturday night’s pre season game at the Oakland Coliseum

OAKLAND, Calif — Even though the Raiders lost to the Tennessee Titans 27-14 in both team’s third preseason game Saturday night at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, it was good to see Derek Carr and the Raiders’ first-team offense finish off drives with getting the ball into the end zone.

Carr, who led to the Raiders to just six points in the previous six quarters he appeared in during the preseason, went 12-for-18 for 169 yards passing and two touchdowns against the Titans while playing the entire first half.

After Tennessee took an early 7-0 lead behind a DeMarco Murray one-yard run, Oakland’s signal-caller drove the Raiders’ first-team offense 58 yards in seven plays for their first touchdown of the game (and of the preseason) as a unit, a 6-yard toss to rookie running back DeAndre Washington on an angle route out of the backfield to the tie game, 7-7.

Washington, along with fellow running back Jalen Richard, combined for 95 yards of total offense, but the diminutive Washington did cough up the ball in the third quarter  after taking a huge hit from Titans linebacker David Bass which resulted in a 47-yard fumble recovery by fellow linebacker Sean Spence that gave Tennessee a 27-14.

But Carr was just getting started.

Following a Ryan Succop 30-yard field goal that pushed Tennessee’s lead, 10-7, Carr engineered a six-play, 75-yard drive culminating a picture-perfect, 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper down the Titans’ sideline and hitting Cooper in the back of the end zone that gave Oakland (1-2) a 14-10 lead shortly before halftime.

Replay would confirm Cooper kept both feet in bounds. Cooper finished with three catches for 52 yards.

Earlier in the game, Carr placed another beautifully thrown pass to his other top target, wide receiver Michael Crabtree for 41 yards.

It would be Crabtree’s only catch of the game.

In the midst of Oakland’s first drive to begin the third quarter, Carr would give way to backup Matt McGloin.

McGloin, and third-string rookie quarterback Connor Cook, proceeded to throw two interceptions to Tennessee’s second- and third-string defenders.

What I wasn’t impressed with was Oakland’s first-team defense, which gave up 276 yards (106 on the ground), in the first half.

Tennessee’s Murray (8 carries for 40 yards) and rookie running back Derrick Henry (12 carries for 49 yards) did the most damage to Oakland’s rush defense. Tennessee found gaping holes that turned two-yard gains, into five-yard gains.

It was the second time this preseason that Oakland had issues with beefy, powerful runners.

Oakland struggled to curtail Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy, surrendering 45 yards on nine carries and a touchdown in Oakland’s 20-12 loss at Lambeau Field last Thursday.

Oakland’s first-team defense never forced the Titans to punt, allowing Tennessee to score three touchdowns and two field goals in two quarters.

It wasn’t until their final drive of the third quarter that Oakland’s starting unit forced Tennessee’s offense to punt.

The secondary had trouble defending the passing game of the Titans.

Tennessee (2-1) starting quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 9-for-16 passes for 170 yards, 65 of those yards to veteran wide receiver, Andre Johnson who will be one of Mariota’s go-to guys this season.

On the Titans’ second drive of the game, the 35-year-old former Miami Hurricane had consecutive catches of 13, 38, and 14 yards.

It was vintage Johnson.

Johnson finished with three catches for 65 yards, while promising rookie wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (fantasy football sleeper), hauled in a 60-yard, catch-and-run pass that helped setup Tennessee’s first score of the game.

Oakland finishes the preseason at home Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks, with the starters unlikely to play.

 

 

 

Oakland Raiders-Tennessee Titans preview: Carr, Raiders needs offense to click against Titans Saturday

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

AP file photo: Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr slings it back to air it out against the Green Bay Packers in week two of the exhibition season at Lambeau Field Thu Aug 18th in Green Bay

OAKLAND, Calif — Derek Carr looked rather pedestrian, completing 9 of 13 for just 38 yards, during Oakland’s 20-12 loss to Green Bay last Thursday night.

Carr and the Raiders’ first-team offense have produced zero touchdowns during the team’s first two preseason games.

In fact, Oakland’s first-team offense have produced just six points in the three quarters that Carr has played so far this preseason. If you’re Raider Nation, you’re not too concerned, but you do want to see Carr engineer the Raiders into the end zone before the end of the preseason.

What’s troubling for me with Oakland’s offense is not the lack of touchdowns, but the chemistry issues in the passing game, particularly with training camp roommates in Carr and Cooper on deep routes.

In Oakland’s first preseason game against the Cardinals in Arizona, Carr and Cooper were disconnected on a deep throw down the Cardinals’ sideline that Cooper caught, but couldn’t keep his feet in bounds.

Then against the Packers, Carr threw an underthrown pass to Cooper that was intercepted by Packers cornerback Damarious Randall in the first quarter.

“I tried to throw it up and give Amari a chance,” Carr said after the game. “This is the time to do it. I am risky, but at this time, a bit more risky.”

I do expect Carr to play comfortable in front of the Raider Nation Saturday, when Oakland (1-1) host Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans in both team’s third preseason game, where generally the starters play the majority of the game.

Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. PDT at the Oakland Coliseum, with the game seen nationally on CBS.

Carr led four fourth quarter/overtime game-winning drives, one including a 24-21 victory over the Titans in Week 12 last season after trailing 17-21 late in the fourth quarter.

Carr orchestrated a 9-play, 90-yard drive in 3:20 that ended with a 12-yard touchdown to wide receiver Seth Roberts with 1:21 left in the game.

It was  Roberts’s first career 100-yard receiving game (six catches, 113 yards, and two touchdowns), and the second time in 2015 that Carr and Roberts connected on a game-winning score in the final two minutes.

Coincidentally, Carr found Roberts for a 12-yard touchdown in Oakland’s 37-33 home win over Baltimore in Week 2.

Oakland’s first-team defense can improve, especially against the running game. The Raiders were battered by the strong running game of Packers running back Eddie Lacy, who carried the ball nine times for 45 yards.

Lacy closed out a 14-play, 74-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge in the first quarter. Lacy had a 20-yard run on 2nd and 10 that was key on the Packers’ opening drive, which saw a litany of Raiders missing tackles.

Tennessee (1-1) is coming off a 26-16 loss at home against the NFC Champions, Carolina Panthers, has the promise of being one of the surprising teams this year, especially with Mariota at the helm.

The second-year quarterback completed 9 of 10 passes for 104 yards passing with one interception. Mariota did hook up with wide receiver Harry Douglas for a 23-yard touchdown on his final throw after engineering Tennessee’s first three drives.

Tennessee also has the potential of having one of the league’s better rushing attacks with running backs DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry.

Murray, who was acquired by the Titans in the offseason after spending a disastrous 2015 season in Philadelphia, looked like he is ready for a bounce back season as evident of his 71-yard touchdown run against the Chargers in San Diego in the team’s first preseason game.

The six-year pro out of Oklahoma has 11 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown through two games this preseason.

Henry, the bruiser out of Alabama who Tennessee drafted in the second round this past May, has 15 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown through two games this preseason.

One player that I’m very interested in watching for the Titans is rookie receiver Tajae Sharpe, who Mariota recently told Around the NFL’s Marc Sessler “he makes it easy,” when catching the ball.

The UMass product leads Tennessee with eight catches for 103 yards this preseason.

 

 

 

 

Stanford vs Oregon Preview: Game Of The Year

Stanford-vs-Oregon1by Jerry Feitelberg

Well fans, this is the game of the year in not only the Pac-12 north division but the entire Pac-12 and , perhaps, the nation.

Stanford will be playing the the high-flying Oregon Ducks on Thursday November 7th at Stanford Stadium at 6pm The Ducks are ranked #2 nationally with a 8-0 record. Stanford has a record is 7-1 i and is ranked at # 5. The game is sold out but there may be some single seats available

Oregon will be looking to avenge the 17-14 loss they suffered to the Cardinal last year at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. The Ducks never lose at home but they did last year and Stanford, not Oregon, went to the Rose Bowl. The Ducks are loaded again. They are led by first year head coach Mark Helrich. Chip Kelly,who built Oregon into a national powerhouse, fled to the NFL and is in the process of rebuilding the Philadelphia Eagle franchise. Helrich has the Ducks playing at an extremely high level again this year. Oregon has scored 34 points or more in 34 consecutive games. The lone exception was the loss to Stanford last year. Handling the chores at quarterback is Marcus Mariota, who is a sophomore. Mariota has been named a semi-finalist for the Maxwell Club’s Award for Collegiate Player of the year. Mariota runs an offense that is second nationally in scoring and in total offense averaging 632 yards per game. That, folks, is absolutely off the charts. Mariota also has completed sixty-four percent of his passes.

The Stanford defense will be sorely tested. Defensive end Ben Gardner has been sidelined for the rest of the season with an arm injury. Stanford’s strength on defense has been the pass rush. Stanford ranks third nationally with 27 sacks and Gardner was second on the team with 4.5 sacks behind Trent Murphy’s 9.5. Murphy, by the way, was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. In the game against Oregon State, Murphy recorded 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks. Logged 8 tackles, 2 quarterback hurries and blocked an extra point. It was the second times this season that Murphy has won the award.

It should be interesting to see how Stanford’s great defense, albeit riddled with injury, can stand up to the offensive onslaught that will be coming there way on November 7th. The Cardinal shut down Oregon State’s Shawn Mannion last week and limited OSU to just 12 points. The Cardinal offense is going to have to get their game going in order to beat the Ducks.

While Gardner is lost for the year, the Cardinal has Senior Henry Anderson returning from injury and Anderson will be at defensive end for the Cardinal.

There is no doubt about it. This should be one of the great games of the year. The winner may be in the BCS championship game. The eyes of the nation will be watching for sure.