The Titans kick their season off on Monday Night Football with their first of three prime-time games with a visit to the Denver Broncos.
Jurrell Casey gets an opportunity to go up against his former team right off the bat. Do you think he wants to show them that trading him away for a bag of footballs was a mistake? The first thing that stuck out to me about the schedule was that the Titans wrap up their season with five of their final seven games on the road. They’re not cupcake opponents, either.
If the Titans want to get back into the playoffs and pick up where they left off, they need to get off to a fast start in 2020. As you surely recall, they did not do that in 2019. The Titans started the season 2-4 before making a change at quarterback and left themselves very little margin for error down the stretch. Luckily, Ryan Tannehill and company were up for the challenge. Still, that’s surely a scenario the Titans would like to avoid in 2020. Of the first nine opponents, only three made the playoffs last season (Minnesota, Buffalo and Houston), and the Titans have three consecutive home games in October that could give them energy going into a difficult second half. A fast start would go a long way in providing the team with some much-needed security heading into a tough final stretch.
The Titans are poised to be a team that’s well set up for any potential hiccups in the 2020 schedule due to COVID-19. Continuity could be key for NFL teams as they potentially face a delayed (or worse) start to training camp. The Titans return 10 of 11 starters on what’s already a very good offense, and that one “new” starter is team-favorite Dennis Kelly.
There’s not as much continuity on defense, but it’s not like they’ll be rolling out a totally new defense either. The loss of defensive coordinator Dean Pees paired with no official replacement for him means that Mike Vrabel will be calling the shots on defense (likely with some help from assistant coaches Shane Bowen and Jim Haslett). It should be more of the same from a scheme standpoint, and the familiar verbiage should help Titans defense hit the ground running. With veteran leadership in the form of Casey, Logan Ryan and Wesley Woodyard no longer in the fold, the Titans will likely lean on players such as Kevin Byard, Kenny Vaccaro and Jayon Brown to rally the troops and help get new additions such as Vic Beasley and Kristian Fulton acclimated. A veteran addition like Jonathan Joseph who played for coach Vrabel (and new secondary coach Anthony Midget) in Houston should also help.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the final portion of the season. The five-game road stretch over a seven-week period includes trips to Baltimore, Indianapolis, a prime-time Sunday nighter with Green Bay in late December (in a cold and likely snowy Lambeau Field) and a Week 17 showdown with the Texans in Houston. This stretch of tough games could determine if the Titans are a true contender, and it’s likely to ultimately decide their playoff chances. Having 10 days off in-between the Thursday night home date with the Colts and the first road game (at Baltimore) of this tough stretch should help them get ready for the tough road ahead. Mike Vrabel will have to make sure his team is mentally prepared to handle such a tough stretch to end the season. I certainly trust this team to be ready for anything, but it’s a stretch worth mentioning.
One final observation here. The Titans will likely face a ton of young quarterbacks throughout this season. Injuries or coaching changes can of course impact this fact, but the Titans are set to open their season against sophomore quarterback Drew Lock. Lock didn’t start playing for the Broncos until Week 13 in 2019, and enters the 2020 season with less than 200 passing attempts to his name. The young quarterbacks don’t stop there. The very next week brings a date with second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew, the Jaguars sophomore signal caller in the Titans home opener. The Titans will of course see Minshew and the Jaguars once again later in the year. They’re also set to play against Joe Burrow, the Bengals’ golden child in Week 8. It may be a stretch to call Josh Allen, DeShaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson “young quarterbacks”, but the Titans are set to play against all of them in 2020.
In case you missed it, here’s another look at the complete schedule.
- W1: @ Denver Broncos (9:10pm CT, MNF)
- W2: vs Jacksonville Jaguars (12pm CT)
- W3: @ Minnesota Vikings (12pm CT)
- W4: vs Pittsburgh Steelers (12pm CT)
- W5: vs Buffalo Bills (12pm CT)
- W6: vs Houston Texans (12pm CT)
- W7: BYE
- W8: @ Cincinnati Bengals (12pm CT)
W9: vs Chicago Bears (12pm CT)