With the release of the 2021 schedule, it’s time for first thoughts on how the schedule makers did the Titans this season. Early impression; not bad! The first thing that stands out is the week 13 bye; players should love that late rest in the season to let their bodies heal from the wear and tear of what is a long season. The next thing that pops out to me, the three primetime games feel a little light, but they are some great matchups (MNF week 6 vs BUF, SNF week 9 at LAR, and TNF week 16 vs SF). The Buffalo game, in particular, should be a fun one with their last meeting being dominated by the Titans in primetime.
Below is the full schedule, along with some thoughts on each matchup:
Week 1: vs Arizona Cardinals: Typical 1:00 kickoff against an up-and-coming Cardinals team. Happy to catch them early, hopefully, the newcomers haven’t had time to gel. Will be an early test for a Titans defense replacing half of their starters from last season. Early lines have this as Titans -2.5 and an O/U of 51.5, expect points in this one.
Week 2: at Seattle Seahawks: Not an opponent the Titans see often, and you have to worry about Russel Wilson coming out firing like he did last season (I’m a cardholding member of the #LetRussCook fan club). Good matchup for the Titans rushing O against a middle-of-the-road SEA front 7. Will also serve as another early test for the Titans’ revamped defense against one of the premier QB’s in the game.
Week 3: vs Indianapolis Colts: The first divisional game of the season. New look Colts with Carson Wentz, it will be interesting to see how he rebounds from last season leading the NFL in INT’s with the change of scenery. I wouldn’t expect to see newly signed left tackle Eric Fisher in this matchup, coming off of his Achilles injury that cut his 2020 season short.
Week 4: at New York Jets: This should be seeing game four of the Robert Saleh/Zach Wilson era in East Rutherford. Rookie QB’s tend to struggle early, so it’s better to see Wilson earlier rather than later. Have to be careful of a Corey Davis revenge game. Ryan Tannehill and AJ Brown should feast against a middle-of-the-road NYJ secondary.
Week 5: at Jacksonville Jaguars: This is the first time seeing the Urban Meyer led Jags. Trevor Lawrence will still be in his early stages, so hope to catch him still learning the ropes and making mistakes. The Titans historically own the Jags under Vrabel, but you can never write off a divisional opponent, especially one this early in the year. Sidenote: As a Vols/Titans fan, I’ll be sick if newly signed QB turned TE Tim Tebow scores in this game.
Week 6: vs Buffalo Bills (MNF): The first of the Titans’ three primetime games. Bills Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll not getting a head coaching gig this offseason was one of the big shockers of the 2021 coaching carousel, look for Buffalo to continue the high octane offense they had under him last season. I’m sure Derrick Henry will be looking for Josh Norman to ragdoll again on the perimeter like he did last season. I would expect a lot of offense in this one.
Week 7: vs Kansas City Chiefs: I always look forward to seeing a generational talent come to Nashville, so I’m really looking forward to this matchup. The Titans have beat KC in the past, but their most recent matchups have been all KC. Patrick Mahomes versus the Titans pass D will be the main attraction in this one, but don’t sleep on the Titans rushing attack against Chris Jones and the KC defense.
Week 8: at Indianapolis Colts: The second matchup of the season between two division rivals. These are far and away from the two most talented teams in the AFC South, so one would believe this game could have major playoff tiebreaker implications. These two split the series last season, I would expect another series split this season.
Week 9: at Los Angels Rams (SNF): The second primetime game for the Titans this season, getting a look at an NFC QB they saw last season in Matt Stafford. Stafford will be rocking new digs this season, and LAR could be a legitimate contender for the NFC this season. The Titans OL and Derrick Henry versus Aaron Donald and the Rams front 7 will be the deciding factor in the game. Should make for a fun matchup.
Week 10: vs New Orleans Saints: I’m excited to see the new-look Saints without first-ballot Hall of Famer Drew Brees. One would think Jameis Winston should win the starting gig down there over the human utility knife Taysom Hill, and he has never fared well against the Titans.
Week 11: vs Houston Texans: This is the first time seeing this division rival, pretty late in the season again this year. The Texans are widely thought of to be a favorite for the 2022 first overall pick with the status of start QB Deshaun Watson up in the air, so this one has a chance to get ugly. Would expect to see rookie QB, Davis Mills, by this point in the season, who was the Texans’ first pick in the 2021 draft in the third round.
Week 12: at New England Patriots: I expect to see rookie QB Mac Jones behind the center by the time we make it to this late November matchup. Their last matchup ended the Tom Brady era in Foxboro, and Vrabel has gotten the best of Belichick in their last few matchups, and I’m sure he’ll want revenge. I think this is a trap game coming off of two favorable games at home.
Week 13: Bye Week
Week 14: vs Jacksonville Jaguars: There’s no telling what kind of team JAX will be by this point in the season. A lot of it will depend on how Urban Meyer adjusts to the NFL game versus the college game. Also, seeing the growth of Trevor Lawrence from the Week 5 matchup to this point will be intriguing to watch for.
Week 15: at Pittsburg Steelers: This matchup is later than their matchup last season, it will be interesting to see how Ben Rothlisberger holds up over the course of the season. He started to tail off late last season as age started to catch him, and their offensive line has gotten significantly worse due to attrition this offseason with the loss of Pouncey and Villanueva. Also has the potential to be a Bud Dupree revenge game.
Week 16: vs San Francisco 49ers (TNF): The Titans final primetime game of the season. There is a good chance they’re seeing yet another rookie QB in third overall pick Trey Lance, and he has the potential to be special in HC Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
SF has one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, they easily could be a dark horse contender in the NFC if that roster stays healthy. A fun late season, cross-conference matchup with limited playoff implications. One more thing to note here, with having a road game the week before, what is already a short week with TNF gets ever shorter.
Week 17: vs Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins were a fun, competitive team last season, who barely missed out on the playoff field. I’d expect that growth to continue in year three under HC Brian Flores. By this time of the season, the Dolphins should know what they have in young QB Tua Tagovailoa. If he becomes what they expect him to, this game could have major playoff implications. Coming off of the longer prep week with TNF the week before, the Titans should have a bit of an advantage there,
Week 18: at Houston Texans: Back-to-back seasons closing the regular season in Houston. Depending on how the rest of the season plays out, there’s a chance this is a throwaway game for both teams. I don’t like predicting division sweeps, but I almost expect the Titans to sweep the Texans this season.
Final thoughts and record prediction
All in all, the Titans got a pretty favorable schedule, ranking the seventh easiest based on 2020 records. Even with the roster turnover, the Titans still have a talented enough team to think that 7-8 wins are the absolute floor for them this season. I don’t know if the offensive firepower is there for a 14-3 ceiling, but I think 13-4 is within the realm of possibility.
This is the Titans though, so they’re bound to lay an egg or two at some point this season. That being said, I’m predicting them to finish in the 10-7 to 12-5 range, which would further cement them as the best team in the AFC South, and help build their case as legitimate AFC contenders under HC Mike Vrabel.