NFL schedule breakdown: Tennessee Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — New Titans coach Ken Whisenhurt figures if he’s to get his new team to the playoffs for first time since 2008, then a favorable schedule would be a good place to start. But the start of that era has a tough beginning.
The Titans learned on Wednesday night that they will play three of their first four games on the road against playoffs teams from a year ago.
"The good thing is that maybe it will create a sense of urgency with our team in the offseason workouts and training camp," Whisenhunt said.
— Although now in different divisions, the heated rivalry from the old AFC Central days still lingers between the Titans and Steelers. They play each other for a seventh straight season; the Titans have won the past two meetings. Being the Monday Night Football game only adds to the buzz for a game that usually brings out the best in the Titans.
— The Titans have their bye week exactly in the middle of the season, between Weeks 8 and 9. This sets up perfectly to allow the team to rest and recover from nagging injuries from the first half of the season. It also allows the Titans to get plenty of film and prep time for upcoming second-half opponents. Also, games against three division foes — Colts, Jaguars and Texans — are spread equally between the first and second halves of the season.
— Despite being out of the playoffs for five seasons and without a postseason victory since 2003, the Titans still received two prime-time games, including the Steelers’ visit on Nov. 17. They will also host AFC South rival Jacksonville on Dec. 18 on the NFL Network. The teams have split the regular-season series five years straight.
— With a new coaching staff implementing changes on both sides of the ball, the comforts of playing at home might have helped ease the team into the season. But they open Sept. 7 at the Chiefs, return home to host the Cowboys and then play consecutive road games at the Bengals and AFC South rival and defending champion Colts. Just splitting those four games would make for a solid start.
— It is going to be difficult to see Mike Munchak wearing Steelers garb at LP Field when he comes to coach offensive line against the Titans. Up until being fired as head coach of the Titans after going 22-26 in three seasons, the popular Munchak had been a lifer with the franchise. The team’s first-round draft pick in 1982, his 11-year career with the team as offensive lineman earned Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement. After retiring from playing, he stayed with the team as offensive line coach before taking over in 2011.
— Titans fans already knew they would face former running back Chris Johnson as soon as he signed last week with the Jets. Six seasons of C.J., who rushed for nearly 8,000 yards to become the franchise’s No. 3 all-time leading rusher, had fans polarized over his effectiveness and worth, or lack thereof. Surely, Johnson will want to prove to Titans fans that he hasn’t lost a step or two. Johnson and Titans supporters alike already have circled the Dec. 15 visit on their calendars.
With 16 games, coaches like to break the season into fourths. For the Titans, they curiously have mirroring scheduling sets for each fourth of the season. The first four games, they play one at home and three on the road. The next four, they play one on the road and three at home. They repeat that in the second half, playing three of four on the road before playing three of their final four at home.
The Titans need to adapt quickly to the new offense implemented by Whisenhunt and the new 3-4 "hybrid" defense of coordinator Ray Horton. If not, they could find themselves in a deep hole to open the season.
There are two essential swing games: the home opener against the Cowboys and an Oct. 19 road trip to Washington, part of a stretch of winnable games that includes visits by the Browns, Jaguars and Texans. The Titans have been relegated to the middle of the NFL’s pack for several years now, and the fans are getting restless. They’ll have to squirm in their seats for another season as the Titans go 8-8 and, again, fail to make the playoffs in 2014.