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VOL. 46 | NO. 31 | Friday, August 5, 2022

No sleep till Glendale

Titans anxious to make Super Bowl run, erase last year’s playoff failure

By Terry McCormick

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Last season, the Tennessee Titans won the AFC South and entered the playoffs as the AFC’s top seed. It wasn’t good enough, as they lost to the upstart Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round.

Now the Titans will try to regroup, put last year’s disappointment behind them and get back to the postseason this year with what they hope will be a much different result.

The window of opportunity for this group of Titans might only be open for another year or two, and the postseason trek doesn’t get any easier with Kansas City, Buffalo and Cincinnati led by young, star quarterbacks.

Other contenders upgraded the all-important quarterback both inside (Matt Ryan for Carson Wentz with the Colts) and outside (Russell Wilson for Drew Lock with the Broncos) the division.

Add the Chargers with their emerging star quarterback, Justin Herbert, and you get the idea of just how tough the playoff road might be.

The regular season also becomes more difficult since last year’s regular-season success (12-5, 5-1) means Tennessee will be playing a tougher first-place schedule this fall.

Here’s a look at just how this Titans season might stack up – at least from the view of the preseason, before we know exactly which teams will be good and which ones won’t.

Sept. 11: New York Giants

Dez Fitzpatrick is one of several Tennessee Titans wide receivers who will have to improve their game this year to make up for the loss of A.J. Brown.

-- Photo By Mark Humphrey | Ap

When did the Giants become the Jets? Not that long ago, they used to contend for and win Super Bowls. Now, they’re just another New York football team that can’t find the right quarterback and can be penciled in for last place in their division. The Titans probably couldn’t ask for a better team to open the season against. Titans 27, Giants 17

Sept. 19: at Buffalo

The Titans have had the Bills’ number the past two seasons, which is interesting since Buffalo has been one of the darling rising teams for a few years now with Josh Allen at quarterback. This time the Titans have to make the Monday night trip to Buffalo, and the tables likely will turn, unless the Titans defense can frustrate Allen once again. Bills 27, Titans 24

Sept. 25: Las Vegas

It’s a short week after being on the road for Monday night, but the Raiders traveling across a couple of time zones can help offset that. The Raiders are no slouch, even though they could well finish last in the AFC West. Derek Carr is a quality quarterback and has a new weapon in Davante Adams, acquired from Green Bay. This game could be a good test for the Titans’ young secondary. Might also be a good time to use Derrick Henry a lot to control the game. Titans 28, Raiders 21

Oct. 2: At Indianapolis

Tennessee has had Indy’s number the past couple of years after years of Colts dominance with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. The Titans’ recent success was enough for Colts owner Jim Irsay to speak out about it. Ryan at quarterback might give Indianapolis an early edge with few of his tendencies exposed on film. Colts 23, Titans 20

Oct. 9: At Washington

Head coach Mike Vrabel greets fans after a training camp practice session.

-- Photo By Mark Humphrey | Ap

No matter what their name is, the Washington franchise hasn’t exactly been the most stable in recent years. There is some talent on the roster, but it’s asking a lot for Carson Wentz to lead this team anywhere but as an also-ran in the NFC East. The biggest thing the Titans have to worry about is that demon that rears its head occasionally on the road against bad teams. (See Titans at Jets, 2021). Titans 27, Commanders 17

Oct. 16: Bye

Last season the Titans did not have their bye until week 13. With all the injuries they had – suiting up a record 91 players – the bye week almost came too late to do much good. This year’s earlier comes earlier than most teams would like, but it does serve a good purpose in that it occurs just before a rematch with divisional rival Indianapolis just three weeks after the teams’ first meeting.

Oct. 23: Indianapolis

Hard to believe the AFC South could be largely decided before Halloween, but the division race could be settled with these teams playing twice in three games. The Colts, even with better QB play, shouldn’t be able to come in and defeat the Titans, who will have extra rest coming off their bye week. Titans 33, Colts 24

Oct. 30: At Houston

The Texans haven’t been good for a couple of years, but they haven’t been an easy out for the Titans, either. How much Davis Mills progresses could determine whether Houston can keep the score close. Of course, Tannehill will need to be sharper than he was in the first meeting with the Texans in 2021. Chances are, he will be. Titans 34, Texans 23

Nov. 6: At Kansas City

Sunday Night Football against Patrick Mahomes. It will be an uphill challenge, but no one thought the Titans could go to Los Angeles last year and shred the Rams in prime time. Tennessee needs a big game from Henry and a bigger game from the defense. Four road games in six weeks makes this even more difficult. Chiefs 29, Titans 27

Nov. 13: Denver

Russell Wilson brings his act to the Broncos, but the Titans had success winning against him in Seattle last year. Denver won’t be the pushover it has been the past couple of seasons, but the Titans should be able to handle them at home. Titans 24, Broncos 19

Nov. 17: At Green Bay

The Titans didn’t fare so well against Matt LaFleur’s Packers in 2020 when they faced their old offensive coordinator at Lambeau Field. Tennessee has a much better defense now, and Mike Vrabel has a knack for getting his team up for big games when they are underdogs. This won’t be easy, especially with a short week (It’s a Thursday night game). Packers 23, Titans 20

Nov. 27: Cincinnati

A rested Titans team will get to host Joe Burrow and the Bengals. Sound familiar? The stakes aren’t nearly as high, but still. The Titans will have to be at their best and will have to avoid turnovers. But in a long NFL season against good teams, sometimes it just doesn’t go the right way. Bengals 21, Titans 17

Dec. 4: At Philadelphia

A.J. Brown wanted out of Tennessee because he wanted a contract bigger than what the Titans were willing to give. Chances are, Brown’s numbers are going to decrease with Jalen Hurts throwing football his way instead of Ryan Tannehill. Both sides will be eager to show who got the better of the move. Titans 34, Eagles 21

Dec. 11: Jacksonville

The Jaguars should be better now that Urban Meyer’s sideshow has moved on and Trevor Lawrence can get some legitimate NFL coaching. That said, the Jaguars are still far from being a contender. The Titans haven’t had many problems with the Jags recently, a trend that should continue. Titans 38, Jaguars 20

Dec. 18: Los Angeles Chargers

An interesting matchup against a Chargers team that boasts as much star power as nearly any team in the NFL. The Titans usually play well down the stretch of the season under Vrabel, but this will be a serious test late in the year with likely playoff implications. Chargers 31, Titans 26

Dec. 24: Houston

The Texans come to town, and the Titans get a nice Christmas present against a division rival playing out the string and thinking about golf courses in January. The offense should have solidified itself by this point in the season for Tennessee. Titans 34, Texans 24

Dec. 27: Dallas

A second Thursday game on the schedule for the Titans this year brings the likely NFC East winner to town. Dallas should have plenty of offense with Dak Prescott and company, but the Titans defense should be up for the challenge in this one. Look for a steady dose of Henry. Titans 23, Cowboys 19

Jan. 8: At Jacksonville

The Titans should be in position to have either clinched a playoff berth or be in contention to clinch one at this point. If a spot has been clinched, then playoff seeding could be at issue in the regular-season finale. Titans 28, Jaguars 20

Final regular season record: 11-6

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