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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 1
September 3, 2003
Season Ticket
Thu 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
NYJ at WAS DEN at CIN MIN at GB ATL at DAL OAK at TEN
Sun 1 PM HOU at MIA NE at BUF CHI at SF Mon 9 PM
ARZ at DET IND at CLE SD at KC NO at SEA TB at PHI
BAL at PIT JAX at CAR STL at NYG Times EST no byes
   
Oakland vs Tennessee Sun, Sep 7; 8:30 PM on ESPN at The Coliseum
  Oakland Rush Catch Pass
QB Rich Gannon 10 0 270,3
RB Charlie Garner 60 40 0
RB Ty. Wheatley 10 0 0
TE Doug Jolley 0 30,1 0
WR Tim Brown 0 50 0
WR Jerry Porter 0 80,1 0
WR Jerry Rice 0 60,1 0
  Tennessee Rush Catch Pass
QB Steve McNair 40,1 0 220,2
RB Eddie George 70,1 20 0
TE Frank Wycheck 0 Q 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 80,1 0
WR Justin McCareins 0 30 0
WR Drew Bennett 0 50,1 0

Game Prediction: OAK 24, TEN 28

Update: Frank Wycheck is considered questionable to play due to his concussion. While he may make it into the game, Erron Kinney will likely figure in this week to be safe. Find a different starter if possible.

The Raiders had a magical season last year, old-timer Rich Gannon throwing balls machine gun style to old-timer Jerry Rice who continues to defy the effects of aging even if his hairline has not been so lucky. Old-timer Charlie Garner had his break out season when he turned 30 and relative toddler Jerry Porter kept catching touchdowns each time the secondary stopped to ask Rice for an autograph. The Raiders rode the powerful offense all the way to the Superbowl where they found ex-coach Jon Gruden with an uncharacteristic smirk while he proclaimed "Now who's your DADDY?"

Rich Gannon continued to throw the yards all season though he slowed on touchdowns near the end of the season. The problem for defenses was that Rice, Porter, Brown or Garner almost always got open for that moment that Gannon looked at him. The same concern is in effect this season from last year - this is a rather old team (plus one now). Experience counts big in big games but not quite as big as fresh legs. The Raiders enter the season the same as last year - looking terrible in the offseason that by this point is merely an annoyance to the aged veterans.

Garner has not played in a month due to a bruised knee but he really does not need a lot of practice to know what to do. This may be the final year of big time production from the veterans but maybe last year was. Maybe next year will be. The group defies the odds so that forecast is difficult to make. Rice still looks to be just as good and Gannon, barring injury, can still thread the needle.

What is optimistic for the Raiders in a longer view is the emergence of Porter who could well lead all Oakland receivers this year and, at least in potential, the fine performance of rookie Justin Fargas in preseason when he shredded second string defenses that were stocked with players no longer on that team anymore.

The Raiders also drafted Teyo Johnson who was converted from a very tall receiver to a very tall tight end. Until he gets his feet wet it will still be Doug Jolley's role but Johnson has the coaching staff dreaming of red zone lobs in the back of the end zone.

The Raiders also are contending with the latest fiasco generated by Bill Romanowski when he broke the eye bone of a teammate in practice while fighting, losing reserve tight end Marcus Williams for the season and hospitalizing him. Nice way to start the year.

The Titans are not only relatively the same team that lost in the AFC Championship last season, they are healthier and coincidentally facing that exact same team they lost to - the Raiders. The reason for optimism is that Steve McNair enters the season claiming better health than he has in years - no back or ankle problems. No walking boots. Just a veteran offense that can post points and an underrated defense.

The Titans just cut Neil O'Donnell but Billy Volek has earned the backup spot and costs less as well.

Eddie George is approaching the wall as a running back, but he is nearing it in a "slow down" fashion. Each season he loses just a bit off his yards per carry and thanks to the injuries to McNair, he's been getting a lot more goal line calls than in the past. Those touchdowns will continue this year but look for McNair to cut into George's totals again.

The Titans cut John Simon so the backup duty falls to Robert Holcombe and the rookie Chris Brown who is a near clone of George in size and running style.

Kevin Dyson was cut, just in time before his latest injury, and is replaced with Drew Bennett for now. Justin McCareins has a great size and speed ratio and only needs more experience to step up into the starting role. Rookie Tyrone Calico is another project with great potential. The Titans are also expecting bigger things from tight end Erron Kinney who has slimmed down and is looking improved as a receiver. With Wycheck getting long in the tooth, Kinney will need to be better.

This will be one of the best games of the weekend to watch and should score more points than most any other. The Raiders will wake up after a lethargic preseason and the Titans have a score to settle from January when they were denied the chance to get throttled by the Buccaneers in the Superbowl.

Look for more passing than rushing in this matchup while Gannon tries to avoid the blitz and McNair runs away from his. In the end, the Titans defense will show the Raiders that preseason is for practicing with more passion and McNair to turn in a great week one fantasy score both running and passing.

 

Comparative Stats
Starting Week Two

 

Raiders (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @TEN
Week 2 CIN
Week 3 @DEN
Week 4 SD
Week 5 @CHI
Week 6 @CLE
Week 7 KC
Week 8 BYE
Week 9 @DET
Week 10 NYJ
Week 11 MIN
Week 12 @KC
Week 13 DEN
Week 14 @PIT
Week 15 BAL
Week 16 GB
Week 17 @SD
Tennessee (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 OAK
Week 2 @IND
Week 3 NO
Week 4 @PIT
Week 5 @NE
Week 6 HOU
Week 7 @CAR
Week 8 @JAX
Week 9 BYE
Week 10 MIA
Week 11 JAX
Week 12 @ATL
Week 13 @NYJ
Week 14 IND
Week 15 BUF
Week 16 @HOU
Week 17 TB
(Statistics are game averages from current season )