5 big keys to watch for in the Las Vegas Raiders’ Week 3 matchup against Tennessee

The Las Vegas Raiders are looking to turn the page as they go on the road and find their groove in the Music City against the Tennessee Titans.

Las Vegas, who has lost its first two games, are hoping to get back on track following a second-half collapse to the Arizona Cardinals in a 29-23 overtime loss.

Related: 5 takeaways – Las Vegas Raiders six-point OT loss to Arizona

Both teams enter this matchup 0-2, and neither wants to go into October without a victory.  

The Raiders and the Titans, who both made the playoffs last year, do not want to try to become just the seventh team in modern NFL history to make the postseason after losing its first three games.  

Although there are some players who are not in Tennessee this year from a season ago, head coach Josh McDaniels said Tennessee still has the resume for success, especially being the No. 1 seed in last season’s playoffs.

“A lot of things they do well. Obviously, they earned the recognition they got last year in terms of the AFC and where they ranked. I’ve played there before. It’s a tough place to play. It’ll be loud, so it’ll be another big challenge for us.”

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels on challenge ahead

Knowing the Titans are a tough opponent, here are five keys to the Las Vegas Raiders’ victory on Sunday.

Las Vegas Raiders need to play a complete 60 minutes

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers

Last week against Arizona, the Las Vegas Raiders played a first half that was almost perfect.

The Raiders, who had four drives in the first 30 minutes, went: touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal.

Then, in the second half, kicker Daniel Carlson hit a 25-yard field goal as the only points in the final two quarters as Las Vegas punted on its other three drives.

The difference and adjustments the Raiders will have to make this week will need to come from their ability to be successful on every play, in terms of both completing the play as well as their communication.

“It’s going to be a tough test, and it’s going to come down to the end,” Las Vegas offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi said Tuesday. “We’re going to have to execute in the later portion of the game to make sure we win the game.”

The communication and execution of every play comes from the mentality players have.

Wide receiver Davante Adams said the entire team has to have a winning approach for an entire 60 minutes.

“We just have to lock in and demand it from yourself,” Adams said Wednesday. “You got to learn how to put the foot on the gas and for lack of a better words, break their necks when you got them in a corner like that.

That’s the way I’ve learned to play the game and that’s the way that I hope this team will play the game and part of it is just keeping that mindset and never getting comfortable.”

Raiders receiver Davante Adams on Week 3 mentality

Related: 3 key matchups for Las Vegas Raiders Week 3 clash versus Tennessee Titans

Titans D poses a challenge for changing Raiders

Syndication: The Tennessean

As the Raiders continue to find some consistency within the new scheme, the offense will have its challenges against a solid Titans defense.

The Titans are led by seventh-year free safety Kevin Byard in the secondary and eighth-year defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons in the trenches, who were both part of the NFL’s Top 100 list, announced last month.

Last season, Byard played all 17 regular season games and received Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. It was Byard’s second All-Pro honor and first since 2017.

Simmons, who made his NFL debut in 2019, received his first Pro Bowl honor last year as he recorded 8.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and 16 quarterback hits.

“Defensively, they play very physical, change their coverages, give you a lot of different looks in the secondary, got really good safeties that do a good job of disguising the coverages,” McDaniels said. “I’d say Byard and Simmons are two of the very best players that we’re going to see all year on any team defensively.

Coach McDaniels on the Titans defense

Quarterback Derek Carr and the offense will have to be able to overcome this obstacle, whether it comes from Josh Jacobs in the running game or in the passing game. And they’ll have to do so without wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who will be out on Sunday as he works his way back from a concussion.

Related: 2022 NFL defense rankings: See where the Titans and Raiders defense rank

Limit Derrick Henry

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Oakland Raiders

A challenge the Raiders defense will face on Sunday is facing Titans running back Derrick Henry, who recorded 937 rushing yards through the first eight games in 2021.

A lot of running backs get that many yards in a full year, and Henry got that in less than half a season.

As a result, the Raiders’ defense is going to face another challenge from the opposing team’s offense.

However, this will be a new test for Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

“I’ve never gone against Henry before, so this is interesting. I’ve admired from a far because as a defensive coach, there’s not too many things we like about offense but when you see a guy who can run the ball and the way he runs the ball and the physicality, I wish he switched to defensive end or linebacker at one point. I’m excited about the challenge. You hear so much about him throughout the game. This is going to be fun because he challenges you.”

Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham on facing Derrick Henry

Graham added that the biggest task will be attempting to take down the 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back.

“Tackling is going to be a big deal. He is a big man. There are not a lot of people on the planet that look like him. So, the tackling is the No. 1 thing. And the relentlessness. This is a back that could get the ball 25, 30 times if you let him,” Graham said.

One thing that has favored the Silver and Black in the early going this year is they limited Los Angeles Chargers’ Austin Ekeler to 36 yards on 14 carries and Arizona’s James Conner to 25 yards on seven carries, despite the latter making an early exit due to suffering an ankle injury.

Related: NFL offense rankings 2022: Miami Dolphins rising in rankings

Big test for the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line

NFL: Hall of Fame Game-Jacksonville Jaguars at Las Vegas Raiders

One of the biggest tests as to where the game will be won will be at the line of scrimmage.

As a result, that means the Raiders’ offensive line will be vital.

Last week, rookie Dylan Parham got the start at center for the injured Andre James, who has been dealing with a concussion.

This will be a prime benchmark in the third game of the season to see where the offensive line is at.

Although Los Angeles sacked Carr six times two weeks ago, the O-line did a better job protecting the three-time Pro Bowler with one sack that came early against the Cardinals.

It will be interesting if and how much James plays this week. That will affect Parham and whether or not he can shift back to playing left guard or keep the other linemen filling in at the guard position.

In addition, with the news of Las Vegas trading for offensive tackle Justin Herron from New England earlier this week, we’ll get a chance to see on Sunday how many snaps he gets in, if any, and how he works within the offensive line room.

Related: 2022 NFL Power Rankings: Eagles move into top 5, Titans drop big time heading into Week 3

Las Vegas Raiders to face special teams challenges

Every single aspect of the game – offense, defense, and special teams – has the opportunity to affect the outcome.

In the kicking game, the Raiders will see some challenges in order to protect Carlson on his field goal opportunities or in the punt return game.

Against Buffalo last week on Monday, Titans rookie punter Ryan Stonehouse averaged 55 yards on six punts.

“They present a lot of challenges in the kicking game,” McDaniels said. “The young punter got a huge leg. The young returner has already made a couple of splash plays. This is probably the best field goal rush we’re going to see.”

Denico Autry, who is in his ninth season and played for the Raiders to begin his career from 2014-17, has eight blocked kicks in his career.  

The obstacles on special teams will be crucial, especially if this game comes down to the wire in kicking situations.

The Las Vegas Raiders and the Tennessee Titans kick off at 10:00 a.m. PT at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Related: NFL Week 3: 10 burning questions, including Tua Tagovailoa’s statement game

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