NFL Preview - Tennessee (4-6) at Oakland (4-6)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - If the Tennessee Titans had their choice of destinations for a Week 12 road trip, they'd be calling for another go-round with the New York Jets.
Tennessee was 3-1 on the season after a 25-point thrashing of the Jets in late September and seemed ready for a season-long pursuit of an AFC wild card or divisional playoff berth.
The seven weeks since haven't been quite so successful.
Rather than hanging close in the postseason chase, the Titans proceeded to drop five of the subsequent six games surrounding a Week 8 bye - which leaves the needle pointing squarely at "desperation" as they pay a Sunday afternoon visit to Oakland to begin a three-game road swing.
Tennessee will face a significant challenge in the Raiders' conference-best rushing game, which has clicked to the tune of 160.7 yards over their last three games and has averaged 145.4 yards over 10 games.
Though No. 1 runner Darren McFadden is questionable with a hamstring injury, Oakland appears in even better stead with backup Rashad Jennings - who went for 150 yards last week against Houston and has run for 340 yards in three games. McFadden has been limited to just 98 carries in seven games, gaining just 352 yards and scoring four times.
The Titans have surrendered 15 rush TDs for the season - worst in the league - and has been gashed for 129.2 yards per game during the inglorious 1-5 stretch. Tennessee led 14-0 at halftime of a Week 11 game against visiting Indianapolis, then allowed 223 total yards in the second half on the way to a 30-27 loss.
"We as a defense, we got to get off the field," safety Bernard Pollard said. "We had guys in gaps, missed tackles No matter what's going on, we have to find a way to get off the field, and we didn't do that."
Pollard and Co. stand ninth in the conference and sit a game behind the Jets, who hold the final wild card playoff position entering the weekend. The Raiders share the same 4-6 record as the Titans, but hold a tiebreaker edge at the moment thanks to a better conference record (4-3 to 3-4).
Tennessee visits Indianapolis and Denver in weeks 13 and 14, then wraps the season with home games against Arizona and Houston, sandwiching a road trip to Jacksonville.
The Titans last reached the playoffs in 2008.
"All that matters now is this game on Sunday, so I think they need to focus in on that," coach Mike Munchak said. "They understand. The big picture is there. We all understand the situation we're in. We can't worry about what we didn't accomplish to this point. We can't get caught up in what it means if we don't accomplish what we want to accomplish.
"We just have to concentrate on this window."
Offensively, the Titans have gotten quality QB play from backup Ryan Fitzpatrick after starter Jake Locker went down with a season-ending foot injury. Fitzpatrick has completed better than 71 percent of his throws in his last two games for 486 yards and three TDs.
Running back Chris Johnson, who's averaged just 63.2 yards per game this season, went for 142 yards when he last faced the Raiders, in a 38-13 victory in Nashville in 2010.
Oakland is in search of consecutive quality efforts after a Week 11 defeat of Houston last week, in which novice quarterback Matt McGloin established a bit of NFL history.
The undrafted Penn State alumnus completed 18 of 32 passes for 197 yards, three TD passes and no interceptions in his inaugural start, making him just the fourth player with three scores and no INTs in a debut since 1970.
"He played flawless football, especially for this being his first start in the National Football League," safety Charles Woodson said. "He put the ball in there. He had some guys early on in the game that had some drops, but he put it right on the numbers and those are catches the guys have to make for him."
Regular starter Terrelle Pryor is questionable with a sprained knee and has struggled badly in his last four games, during which he's thrown one touchdown against eight interceptions while compiling a 44.2 passer rating and sustaining 18 sacks. In his first four starts, he posted a 97.6 rating with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
If he's ready to play Sunday, he'll nonetheless serve as McGloin's understudy.
"Our job as coaches is to try to do the things that we feel like give us the best opportunity to win," coach Dennis Allen said. "That's what those players in that locker room are looking for. Now, it's good to know that you have options. That's, obviously, a positive. I don't look at it as a tough situation. I look at it as a good situation."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Born to (stop the) run.
Frequently during the 1-5 skid, the Titans have fallen on hard times when it comes to stopping the run. That won't help against a team as well-versed in grinding on the ground as the Raiders are. Tennessee needs to find itself if the playoffs are to remain more than a faint hope.
Do it again, kid.
McGloin, the unheralded alum from Penn State, was a unanimous surprise in his initial NFL appearance, but now that he's on film he won't be able to sneak up on anyone. That'll make runners like Jennings and McFadden (if he's healthy) of significant importance in outing No. 2.
It's not clear that either of these teams really belong among playoff competitors, but at the end of the day one of the two will have significantly upgraded its positioning. McGloin may not stun anyone with his arm this time, but he ought to get enough run help to get to 2-0 as a starter.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Raiders 20, Titans 17
11/21 12:29:47 ET