Usually, there aren’t many “must win” games in Week 3 for both teams. But with two teams 0-2 who were in postseason last year and have aspirations of getting back out there this season, Sunday’s game could also be a playoff between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Tennessee Titans.
The Raiders will enter the game as a 2.5-point favorite on the road, via DraftKings Sportsbook, despite suffering an embarrassing loss to the Cardinals last week. Admittedly, the Giants were humiliated on Monday Night Football too, just in a slightly different way as the Bills kicked them out of town. In other words, both teams are in dire need of rebounding performance.
The odds are in favor of Las Vegas, but if they’re going to save and turn their season around, they’ll need big offers from the players below.
Although he wasn’t filling the box points with an impressive set of stats – six total saves, no TFL or sacks – the Billings quietly put off a solid start to the campaign, especially against running.
He ranks sixth among defensive tackles with a defense score of 82.7 in the PFF and has scored three defensive stops against running. For perspective, his score is nine points higher than that of Aaron Donald, and he has scored one stop more than Leonard Williams, two key players in the position.
That’s exactly what Billings was brought in to do in this defense – take up space in the middle and beat the run – and games like Sunday are where he can be the most impactful.
If you haven’t caught it yet, Attack on Titan is going by (literally) Derek Henry. I don’t think you need me to waste your time with a bunch of stats that show how great it is and how important it is for the Conquerors to stop running, which Billings will play a big part in.
Leading the way for Henry is the Ben Jones Center which is a kind of “under the radar” running blocker. Jones finished seventh in the standings with a score of 79.9 last season, and he graduated in the 1970s in nine of his 10 career seasons. It was 2014 when he scored a mark of 67.6, and he was in his mid-70s for about half of his career.
This is prepared for a fierce battle in the trenches which can be the biggest key to the defensive success of the raiders.
Denzel Berryman/Divine Diplo
I know I just said I wouldn’t share any stats for Henry, but I want to pass one on to highlight how important it is for Las Vegas to put him on the ground this weekend. Last season, 728 of 937 yards total came in after contact, and he ranked sixth in yards after taking a hit despite playing in just eight games. The five racers ahead of him played in no fewer than 11 contests in the regular season, and Antonio Gibson, who was tied to him, had about 40 more gigs and about 100 more yards.
In other words, Henry can break the back of the defense after the first contact, so the form of the attackers must be at a certain point, especially from the linebacker.
With Denzel Perryman absent from the Cardinals game and his condition on Sunday in question, I’m going with the cop to list his name and Deablo as one X Factor this week. And even if they both play, they will both need to bring their own “A games”.
Deablo was certainly active against running last week with five singles tackles and three assists in such plays, but many of them crossed the line of scrimmage. He finished with an average 4.8 tackle depth which ranked 38th amongst quarterbacks in week two, scoring only one defensive stop for a defense score of 58.2. Granted, the sophomore earned a score of 74.9 in the season opener and was outstanding as a running back last year, so this Sunday is more about his subpar performance.
As for Berryman, he’s played in just nine shots against the race this season, but he’s been an interference machine in 2021 as he missed just 3.8 percent of his attempts, and tied for eighth place. This will be tested in Nashville with Henry on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Inner offensive line
Another position where I wish I could single out one, but it would take a full effort as defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons became the star of the Titans.
Last season, he had 8.5 sacks and was the fifth-largest press among the inside defenders with 62. He obviously knows how to get into a midfielder, and even when he doesn’t get there, he can still impact the passing game with five hitting passes a year ago – in Ranked second among DTs – and four in 2020. He’s been more than the same this season with two bags, eight pressures and one BP over two games.
Versus running, Simmons ranked seventh with 32 running stops and had an average tackle depth of 1.4 yards a year ago, sitting at 2 and 1.5 yards for the current campaign. Part of the problem is that he never stays in one place, having scored 40 shots on the right defensive tackle and 38 on the left this season. Therefore, each of the three inner offensive linemen must be at their best, and the depth of the team will be tested again if Andre James comes out.
Dylan Parham has been a strong Las Vegas fan on the inside so far, giving up just two pressures and getting a running impedance score just above 62.7. Granted, the latter was put off by an ugly 51.2 performance against the Cardinals.
Leicester Cotton was also hit only twice in passing protection which really struggled in the ground game with a mark of 43.8. Meanwhile, John Simpon was “Steady Eddy” with only three pressures obtained and the best blocking score on the Las Vegas streak at 65.1.
Those three haven’t faced any Simmons-caliber defensive tackle yet, so Sunday will be their first big test of the season. Hopefully they’re all up for the task because if there’s one weak link, I’ll let you guess where Tennessee’s top defensive player lines up.
Waller is finally getting paid like his first tight end and he looked sharp in the team’s first two games. He picked up 10 of 14 goals for 129 yards and touched down while managing to avoid any drops, which became the problem last season as he had six goals with reduced playing time due to injuries. His efficiency is back to normal, too, with his average yards per track increasing from 1.70 in 2021 to 2.15 in 2022, the latter ranking fifth among the tight ends.
But Waller will face a tough test this week as he owns two safety titans who together make $24 million a year and have definitely earned their profit.
Kevin Biard is coming off a year in which he was excellent in coverage, forced into eight incompletes and five interceptions, both of which were tied for second among safety. He ended up leading the position group with an elite coverage score of 90.9 and developed his reputation as one of the best in the league, Amani Hooker wasn’t too far behind with an 86.9 score in coverage in 2021. Ranked fifth in the position and Hooker had six combined passes and interceptions. .
The good news for silver and black is that Byard has struggled so far this season. He allowed eight finishes on eight goals for 82 yards and a point while his coverage score dropped to 48.1. However, it was more similar than Hooker, who gave up a 42.9 completion rate and only 26.8 pass rating when targeting, posting a score of 79.8.
The point is, Tennessee will have options when it comes to Waller’s coverage, so it will be up to him to figure out how to break free from a few different top-tier coverage advocates.
Renfrew suffered a concussion at the end of last week’s game so his condition is something to be monitored throughout the week, but if he plays, this Sunday will be all about redemption after a costly stumble that sealed the Raiders’ fate against the Cardinals.
The safety of the ball will undoubtedly be his top priority going forward, but the efficiency of the slot machine has also declined this season. He currently records the lowest average yards per track of his career – 1.14 compared to 1.87, 1.75 and 2.09 in years one through three, respectively. Average yardage per goal is down 3.1 points from 2021.
Part of that is having healthy Davante Adams and Waller in the line-up, but this should be Renfrew’s week to bounce back.
The Titans have plenty of young talent with their outer corners, Roger McCreary and Caleb Farley, but they don’t have a great option to cover the hole. If Christian Fulton is out for another week, that will push Ugo Amadi up the nickel depth chart.
In the middle of boot camp, Amadi was traded from the Seahawks to the Eagles where he was likely to be cut from Seattle. Less than two weeks later, Philadelphia sent him to Tennessee because he likely wouldn’t be on their list either. Therefore, Renfrew could be up against someone who was in the bubble for two other league teams.
Fulton is mainly lined up on the outside, so even if he does play, Renfrew will be guarded by either a rookie playing in the third NFL game or a sophomore who fits in for the sixth. Either way, he should be able to get back on track.