The current AFC South Champions Tennessee Titans (11-5) have had a very interesting off-season. Despite being the current division holders, they’re also the one team in the South that seems to be making the big power-moves to consolidate their position; yes the Colts have made a possibly bigger team-changing decision in Wentz. however there is a strong boom or bust whiff about that decision. The recent acquisition of Julio Jones in a blockbuster trade from Atlanta has very little boom-or-bust potential given his past production and the relatively tiny fee that has to be paid this year. Jones has been one of, if not the best, wide receiver of his generation and will immediately give Tennessee a premier receiver pairing along with AJ Brown. The move proves that Vrabel and the Titans front office are banking on a possible Super Bowl run and are ready to go all in - let’s have a look at how their season might go.
Easiest Win – Week 11 vs Houston Texans
I take no pleasure in doing this every AFC South schedule- if it’s any consolation, for the Texans preview their easiest win literally can’t be the Texans; instead, it will be a blank paragraph.
Toughest Game – Week 7 vs Kansas City Chiefs
A quick glance at the schedule and even a newbie NFL fan will know that this roundup features some of the biggest names in the league, San Francisco, New England, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles. Personally, while probably not their most difficult game on paper, Kansas City represents something more to any AFC team wanting to ascend to the top of the pile. If a team like Tennessee thinks they are a potential Super Bowl winning roster, this is their time to prove it and take care of business.
Most Interesting Matchup – Week 12 @ New England Patriots
This matchup has a lot of interweaving narratives and threads. Coaches, players, playstyles shared between two teams who are coming from very different places and honestly look to be going to very different places. As good as Mac Jones/Cam Newton can possibly be, does anyone realistically think New England are a threat to the AFC? Vrabel, of course the former Patriot line-backer, will have this one marked down on the calendar from a personal stand-point as much as a coaching one. I would wager he sees this team in a similar mould to the great Patriots teams (the ones before it was just Brady doing Brady), a bend but don’t break defence with a strong power-running game. In the wider scheme of things, this game is part of a very soft part of the Titans schedule, so they’ll want to put a marker down to end the season.
Make or Break Period – Week 6-10 (vs Buffalo, vs Kansas City, at Indianapolis, at LA Rams, vs New Orleans)
Yikes- that’s quite a mid-season line-up. 5 playoff teams, one beaten in the Superbowl, 1 division rival, 1 west coast visit…the beautiful thing about the NFL year after year is that every team is given stretches which can surge your season or stop it dead in its tracks. This particular stretch for the Titans is probably the hardest you can get in the NFL bar maybe the inclusion of the 49ers or Buccaneers possibly. This is where the ability to change tact for Vrabel will become crucial- can they efficiently change scheme from playing a Bills defence which will require Derrick Henry to pound the ground one week to facing a Kansas City team which will require Tannehill and his pair of WR talents to go toe-to-toe with Mahomes and his elite encore? We will have to wait and see however, I’m genuinely excited that the Titans have the potential to become one of the most versatile teams in the AFC if everything goes to plan. Above all else, teams that can fluidly change schemes and play-calling throughout the season and within a game are annually the same teams who make the playoffs and win. Vrabel has yet to fully prove that he can do this but without doubt, the talent is there to carry it off.
Week 13 Bye
10 Games against teams with .500 and above (Cardinals, Seahawks, Colts x2, Bills, Chiefs, LA Rams, Saints, Steelers, Dolphins)
7 games against teams below .500 (Jaguars x2, Texans x2, Jets, 49ers, Patriots)
Some teams can go week after week being hurled cupcake after cupcake and can ease their way into the playoffs probably having had a somewhat illusionary season record; the Tennessee Titans do not have this. They are basically given a who’s-who of Super Bowl aspirers as if Roger Goddell and his team of faceless schedule bots are saying to Mike Vrabel, “You want to prove that you belong? You want to be in our circle of power? Then prove it…”. Should the Titans make the playoffs, they will have deserved it and they will be stronger for it.