The Tennessee Titans shocked most of the NFL by reaching the playoffs in 2017. After an uneasy start to the season, the Titans heated up mid-season, winning six of seven games at one point. Tennessee backed into the playoffs after losing three of their last four, only to pull off a surprise win over the Chiefs before falling to the Patriots the following week.
Somehow, reaching the second round of the playoffs wasn’t enough for head coach Mike Mularkey to keep his job. Mularkey and the team parted ways, opening the door for the Titans to hire first-time head coach Mike Vrabel. Of course, after taking over a team that reached the second weekend of the postseason, Vrabel has some high expectations to meet as he traverses the world of being an NFL head coach for the first time.
Oddsmakers are reluctant to buy into the Titans, who are listed at +5000 to win the Super Bowl. The team had some inconsistencies a year ago and only went 9-7 during the regular season, so it’s a big leap from that to Super Bowl champion. Tennessee is only projected to win 7.5 games this season. In theory, they should be better than a year ago, making that number easy to top. However, the AFC South figures to be a much more competitive division, which could prevent Tennessee from returning to the playoffs.
For the Titans, this season could come down to the play of quarterback Marcus Mariota. He has not signed an extension, so the Titans aren’t completely sold on him yet. At times, he’s been brilliant, looking every bit like a former Heisman winner. But he’s also had his struggles. The talent is obviously there, but Mariota needs to find some consistency and he needs to stay healthy for 16 games if the Titans are going to be a playoff-caliber team.
Mariota’s supporting cast shouldn’t be much of an issue. Tight end Delanie Walker is still around to be a safety net for the young quarterback. Corey Davis also showed immense promise as a rookie last season when he wasn’t battling injuries. Rishard Matthews also returns as a capable receiver, while Taywan Taylor and tight end Jonnu Smith could be interesting to watch in their sophomore campaigns.
In the backfield, Derrick Henry returns after gaining 4.2 yards per carry a season ago. He’ll be joined by the explosive Dion Lewis, who came over from New England. Those two could form a rather nice tandem, as they have complementary skill sets. The Titans should also have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, especially if Jack Conklin can come back healthy from the ACL injury he suffered in the playoffs.
Defensively, the Titans were average last season, but they made a lot of moves in the offseason to change that. Cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler were brought in to improve the team’s pass defense. Jonathan Cyprien was lost to injury early in training. However, the Titans still have one of the best safeties in the game in Kevin Byard.
Up front, DaQuan Jones and Jurrell Casey both have star potential. The signing of Bennie Logan was a nice addition to complete a solid three-man defensive line. The Titans also used early-round draft picks on linebackers Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry to help solidify that position. Of course, they still have Wesley Woodyard, as well as the pass-rushing duo of Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan, so Tennessee should be in good shape at linebacker.
All things considered, there aren’t many glaring weaknesses on the Tennessee roster. In fact, it looks even better than it did a year ago. Nevertheless, the season could still come down to Mariota staying healthy and showing that he can play at a high level week after week. If Mariota can do that, there’s no telling how good the Titans could be this year.
|Sep 9||@ Miami Dolphins||1:00 PM|
|Sep 16||Houston Texans||1:00 PM|
|Sep 23||@ Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM|
|Sep 30||Philadelphia Eagles||1:00 PM|
|Oct 7||@ Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM|
|Oct 14||Baltimore Ravens||4:25 PM|
|Oct 21||@ Los Angeles Chargers||9:30 AM|
|Nov 5||@ Dallas Cowboys||8:15 PM|
|Nov 11||New England Patriots||1:00 PM|
|Nov 18||@ Indianapolis Colts||1:00 PM|
|Nov 26||@ Houston Texans||8:15 PM|
|Dec 2||New York Jets||4:05 PM|
|Dec 6||Jacksonville Jaguars||8:20 PM|
|Dec 16||@ New York Giants||1:00 PM|
|Dec 23||Washington Redskins||1:00 PM|
|Dec 30||Indianapolis Colts||1:00 PM|
If everyone is healthy, the Titans will play some good quarterbacks in the AFC South this season. They will also see both of last season’s Super Bowl participants, albeit in home games, so this figures to be a challenging schedule for Tennessee.
Week 1: at Dolphins – Win
The Titans lost in Miami last year, but in a game that Mariota missed due to injury. Things will be different this time around, as the Titans start the year with a win.
Week 2: vs Texans – Loss
The Titans had all kinds of problems with Deshaun Watson last season. The Tennessee defense should be improved, but that doesn’t make Watson any easier to contain.
Week 3: at Jaguars – Loss
After beating the Jaguars twice last season, they’ll want some kind of revenge against the Titans in this game. It’s not hard to envision Mariota having a tough game on the road against a powerful Jacksonville defense.
Week 4: vs Eagles – Win
After back-to-back losses, the Titans will be desperate for a win. Never discount how good a desperate team can be at home. Tennessee will find a way to steal a win against the Eagles.
Week 5: at Bills – Loss
Considering Mariota’s inconsistencies, this is a game in which he’s likely to struggle. Mariota throws one interception too many to cost the Titans a game on the road.
Week 6: vs Ravens – Win
Once again, Mariota shows his ability to bounce back from a tough game. With the Tennessee running game giving him plenty of support, Mariota makes game-winning plays in the 4th quarter to win a close game.
Week 7: at Chargers – Win
The Chargers will struggle to defend the Tennessee running game, especially with Mariota able to make plays outside the pocket. Meanwhile, the Titans are able to clamp down on Philip Rivers and company to win on the road heading into the bye.
Week 8: Bye
Week 9: at Cowboys – Loss
The Titans get pushed around a little bit by the Dallas offensive line and running game. Meanwhile, Mariota has an off day coming out of the bye week in a tough loss for the Titans.
Week 10: vs Patriots – Win
With a number of former Patriots on the roster, the Titans manage to pull off the upset over New England, renewing faith among the fan base.
Week 11: at Colts – Loss
It’s a case of one step forward and one step back for the Titans. The gap between Mariota and Andrew Luck becomes apparent in this game, as the Colts take care of business at home.
Week 12: at Texans – Win
This is a Monday night game, and so Mariota will show up on the big stage. It’ll take an extraordinary effort to out-duel Watson, but Mariota is up for it and leads the Titans to a big win on the road.
Week 13: vs Jets – Win
This may be the easiest game the Titans have on their schedule this year. It doesn’t seem like that, as the Jets put up a fight. But the Tennessee defense does the heavy lifting to secure the win.
Week 14: vs Jaguars – Win
The Titans get the benefit of hosting a Thursday night game. With the short week, the Jacksonville defense will be a half-step slower than usual, and that’s all Mariota needs to make a few big plays for the Tennessee offense.
Week 15: at Giants – Loss
A three-game winning streak comes to a stop on a windy day in the Meadowlands. Mariota, a Hawaii native, doesn’t adjust well to the December weather in the northeast, and it ends up costing the Titans a game.
Week 16: vs Redskins – Win
Last week’s loss turned up the pressure on Tennessee, but Mariota and company are able to respond with a convincing win over Washington.
Week 17: vs Colts – Win
With everything to play for, the Tennessee defense plays one of its best games of the season to keep Luck contained. This game completes a strong finish to the season by the Titans that may be enough to get them back in the playoffs.