Derek Carr Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans will face off in Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season. Pictured: Head coach Jack Del Rio and quarterback Derek Carr at Nissan Stadium on Sept. 25, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. Getty Images

Both Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota had their respective 2016 seasons cut short when they went down with broken fibulas on Christmas Eve. Two of the league's best young quarterbacks make their regular-season returns against one another when the Oakland Raiders visit the Tennessee Titans during the first NFL Sunday of 2017.

The odds favor Tennessee at home in Week 1 with a betting line of two points and an over/under of 50.5, via OddsShark. Here is a closer look at Sunday’s contest, as well as a prediction against the spread:

Why Tennessee could cover the spread

The 2017 Titans could be this year’s version of last year's Raiders—a team with a young quarterback that goes from missing the playoffs to being one of the AFC’s best. It’s hard to think of a more fitting way for Tennessee to show they can accomplish what Oakland did in 2016 than by beating the Raiders to kick off the year.

Offensively, the Titans match up extremely well with the Raiders. They’ve got one of the best offensive lines in football, which allowed Tennessee to rank third in rushing offense a year ago. The Raiders were just 25th in yards allowed per carry, and the unit didn’t get much of an upgrade in free agency or the draft.

A big day for DeMarco Murray didn’t help Tennessee beat Oakland last season when, in spite of 114 yards on the ground on 16 carries, the Titans lost 17-10 at home. That was the result of an uncharacteristically bad day from Mariota, who threw two of his nine interceptions on the season. It was possibly the worst game of his young career, and the quarterback could put up big numbers with an improved wide receiving corps against a questionable secondary.

Tennessee didn’t have an established No.1 receiver on last year’s roster. Add veteran Eric Decker and No.5 overall pick Corey Davis to the mix, and Mariota has a real chance to reach the 30-touchdown mark for the first time in his career.

The Raiders are relying on rookies to improve a pass defense that ranked 30th in yards allowed per attempt in 2016. Cornerback Gareon Conley and safety Obi Melifonwu might become major contributors by the end of the season, but Oakland probably doesn’t have what it takes to keep Tennessee’s offense in check in Week 1.

The fact that Mariota is incredible in the red zone and Oakland was 26th in red-zone defense a year ago doesn’t hurt the Titans’ cause, either.

Why Oakland could cover the spread

There are incredibly high expectations surrounding the Raiders with the arrival of Week 1. Oakland was the most popular Super Bowl bet in Las Vegas this summer, and the team could potentially be the biggest threat to the New England Patriots in the AFC. That’s largely because of an explosive offense that should be even better after ranking sixth in the league a year ago.

Carr could have a field day against Tennessee’s secondary in his first regular-season game back from the leg injury that ended his 2016 campaign. Only the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints gave up more yards through the air than the Titans last season. Oakland’s passing attack promises to be even more difficult to stop in 2017 now that opposing defenses have to worry about Marshawn Lynch in the backfield.

Maybe the Titans’ secondary will be markedly improved. The unit was revamped in the offseason with the additions of free-agent cornerback Logan Ryan and first-round draft pick Adoree’ Jackson, though there are plenty of questions as to how they’ll perform against a top offense. The starters weren’t very impressive in Week 3 of the preseason when Mike Glennon posted a 102.5 passer rating and led a 96-yard touchdown drive.

Tennessee’s offensive line was underwhelming in that exhibition game against the Chicago Bears, as well. While it's difficult to put much stock into a game of no importance, it should be noted that Mariota was sacked twice and Murray had just 16 yards on six carries.

How much time will Mariota have to throw the ball if the Titans play the same way when trying to stop reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack?


This has a real chance to be the best game on the Week 1 schedule. With Carr and Mariota potentially headed for Pro Bowl seasons and both teams capable of boasting a top-five rushing attack, there won’t be a shortage of points at Nissan Stadium.

The betting odds indicate that Oakland is the better team on a neutral field, but that might not be the case by season’s end. Given Mariota’s upward trajectory toward becoming a top quarterback, Tennessee’s ability to run the ball and the potential improvements on defense, the Titans might compete for a first-round playoff bye. It all starts with a Week 1 victory.

Tennessee is the smart bet if the point spread remains less than three points.

Tennessee over Oakland, 34-30