Although the NFL regular season doesn’t get started until September, there’s always plenty to talk about in the month of April.
Of course, the NFL draft gets all of the attention. But there’s another intriguing moment that puts fans in a frenzy: the regular season schedule release.
The Tennessee Titans officially announced their 2016 regular season schedule last week, and predictions are already flying all over the place.
Some people think the Titans will be at the bottom of the AFC South once again. Others believe the schedule isn’t all that intimating.
Let’s figure out who is right by breaking down the schedule in quarters.
- September 11, 2016 – vs. Minnesota (Noon, FOX)
- September 18, 2016 – at Detroit (Noon, CBS)
- September 25, 2016 – vs. Oakland (Noon, CBS)
- October 2, 2016 – at Houston (Noon, CBS)
Is there anything in this part of the schedule that looks all that daunting? Not really. The Titans start the season with a playoff team in Minnesota, but the good news is that no team is in playoff form in Week 1.
The Lions will be improved, but far from a playoff team. The game against the Raiders will be one to watch, as Oakland will make a serious push for the postseason. They surprised a lot of people last season, and they’ll take another step forward this year.
As for the Texans, you never know what you’re gonna get. Sure, they managed to sneak into the playoffs last season. But there’s still a lot that needs to be worked out for this Houston team to be one of the best teams in the AFC.
- October 9, 2016 – at Miami (Noon, CBS)
- October 16, 2016 – vs. Cleveland (Noon, CBS)
- October 23, 2016 – vs. Indianapolis (Noon, CBS)
- October 27, 2016 – vs. Jacksonville (7:25 PM CT, NFL Network)
This stretch of the schedule is the most appealing for Titan fans. There’s major opportunity here.
For starters, the Dolphins are still a year away from being a true contender. First-year head coach Adam Gase will eventually turn that franchise around, but not just yet.
The other three games? All winnable. And it’s quite possible that the Titans will be the favorite in every one of those games. It’s probably a stretch to say that they’d be favored over a good but not great Colts team, but it’s still possible.
Tennessee could certainly take three of four in this part of the schedule.
- November 6, 2016 – at San Diego (3:25 PM CT, CBS)
- November 13, 2016 – vs. Green Bay (Noon, FOX)
- November 20, 2016 – at Indianapolis (Noon, CBS)
- November 27, 2016 – at Chicago (Noon, CBS)
Now things get a little bit tricky. This is an extremely daunting stretch of games.
While the Chargers may prove to be the worst team in the AFC West, it’s still a difficult road game. And then there’s the Packers, who will yet again be one of the top teams in the league. The bright side in that game is that it’s being played at Nissan Stadium.
Playing in Indianapolis is never easy, and the Bears will be much improved in John Fox’s second year on the job.
Winning one of these four would be great. Winning two may be a miracle.
- December 11, 2016 – vs. Denver (Noon, CBS)
- December 18, 2016 – at Kansas City (Noon, CBS)
- December 24, 2016 – at Jacksonville (Noon, CBS)
- January 1, 2016 – vs. Houston (Noon, CBS)
The defending Super Bowl champions come to town to start the stretch run of the season, but without Peyton Manning under center.
The Titans will then have opportunities to pick up back-to-back road victories at Kansas City and Jacksonville, although that will be much easier said than done. Beating the Jaguars is the more likely of the two, and would be quite the Christmas present.
And then the season comes to a close with another showdown with the Texans, who by that point may still be fighting for a playoff spot.
Could the Titans also be fighting for a playoff spot? It’s plausible, but not likely.
There’s no doubt that this franchise is trending upward. Jon Robinson has made some outstanding moves this offseason, and the addition of a playmaker like DeMarco Murray in the backfield will greatly help Marcus Mariota and the rest of the offense.
But this team may still be a year away from truly returning to contender status.
However, given that this is a manageable schedule, eight wins isn’t out of the question if everything falls into place.