After an improbable run to the AFC Championship game in 2019, expectations are heightened for the Tennessee Titans. Head Coach Mike Vrabel has his eyes on more than the AFC South title. This offseason General Manager Jon Robinson decided to place the franchise tag on running back Derrick Henry and signed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to an extension. With sports finally starting to be reintroduced into society, Last Word on Pro Football is breaking down the schedules of all 32 NFL teams. This series will consist of the most difficult (1-8) and easiest (9-16) games among each team’s 16-game slate. The focus for this article is the Tennessee Titans most difficult games on the 2020 schedule.
Tennessee Titans Most Difficult Games in 2020
1. Week 11: at Baltimore Ravens
During last season’s playoffs in mid-January the Titans upset the Baltimore Ravens, in Baltimore, by a score of 28-12. It was a victory that took the air out of M&T Bank Stadium. Certainly the Ravens have this game circled on the calendar. Reigning MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson will lead the Ravens hunt for vengeance.
The Ravens offense set records in 2019 and this off-season they bolstered the talent even more. Running back J.K. Dobbins joins Mark Ingram in the backfield to form a formidable duo. By week 11, Dobbins could be receiving a split in carries, therefore adding another offensive piece on the field with potential home-run capabilities. With a dynamic offense and a chip on their shoulder the Ravens will be difficult to defeat on this day. In order to stay competitive for 60 minutes, the Titans will need play a perfect game and catch some breaks. Tough ask in Baltimore.
2. Week 16: at Green Bay Packers
The timing of this matchup is unfavorable for the Titans. If they are eyeing a playoff berth, a visit to Green Bay, Wisconsin in late December seems detrimental. The Titans can expect miserable conditions at Lambeau Field on this Sunday with a sloppy field matched by sloppy weather. However, these weather elements are exactly what the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers have grown accustomed to.
This appears to be the type of weather conditions that Henry would thrive in because of his size and downhill running style. However the Packers defense will be locked in to stop Henry. The pressure will be on Tannehill to make plays at key moments of the game. Tannehill will need to convert third-downs in order to extend drives, thus keeping Rodgers and the Packers off the field. Tight end Jonnu Smith could be utilized to keep the chains moving.
3. Week 17: at Houston Texans
This game has potential to be for the AFC South crown, or at least a playoff berth. That fact alone makes the game one of the more difficult matchups for the Titans. Can the Titans jump on Henry’s back and ride into the playoffs again? That is asking a lot from the franchise running back. Someone else will need to step up in Houston if Tennessee wants a victory.
Perhaps this is the time for the Titans defense to prevail. The Titans front seven has the opportunity pressure Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, early and often. This is the game for outside linebacker Vic Beasley to prove that his off-season signing was an asset as opposed to a liability. Coach Vrabel will need to master a defensive scheme to catch the Texans off guard in this final regular season game.
4. Week 12: at Indianapolis Colts
This AFC South showdown will certainly add weight to the chase for the divisional crown. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will need to be creative in order to leave Lucas Oil Stadium with a win. This will be a challenge against a pair of dynamic linebackers, Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke. However, the Titans can succeed over a vulnerable Indianapolis Colts secondary by efficiently moving the chains, necessitating they do not need to score in chunks.
Defensively, the Titans will need to contain quarterback Philip Rivers and his group of receivers led by T.Y. Hilton and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. If Rivers is unable to get rolling, the Titans will need to wrap up rookie running back Jonathan Taylor. Although this is a tall order against one of leagues most gifted offensive lines.
5. Week 3: at Minnesota Vikings
This is a matchup between two equally matched teams with similar styles. Both teams want to control the ball with the running game. Henry is sure to lead the charge for the Titans while Dalvin Cook will head the rushing attack for the Minnesota Vikings. Cook is the focal point of the Vikings offense and can do a little of everything out of the backfield. Tennessee’s linebackers will have the honor of trying to contain Cook as both a runner and receiver.
The Titans will also battle the crowd noise at U.S. Bank Stadium. After a tough opening two games against Packers and Colts, the Vikings crowd will be rowdy and hungry for a victory. Tannehill will need to be effective with his communication with second-year wide receiver A.J. Brown, where he has the potential to shine against a vulnerable secondary. If Tennessee takes some shots downfield early, they may be able to capitalize on a mistake by the Vikings.
6. Week 1: at Denver Broncos
This could be one of the premier matchups of the opening weekend. The Denver Broncos enter 2020 high on most critics’ radar. Second-year quarterback Drew Lock has been given the keys to the franchise and Denver’s general manager John Elway has done an admirable job surrounding his young quarterback with talent. This off-season he added disgruntled, former San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon to contend with touches among Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Elway also selected wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in the draft to compliment budding-star Courtland Sutton.
While this offensive fire-power in the Mile-High City looks impressive, the Titans might catch a break by playing the Broncos early on in the season, before the Broncos find their stride. Both offenses will have an advantage in this game creating the potential for an exciting shootout on opening week.
7. Week 10: vs. Indianapolis Colts
In week 10 Tennessee hosts Indianapolis in the first of two games between the teams in a three week stretch. The magnitude of the game will certainly shape the landscape of the AFC South. Most likely the Titans will be riding a two game winning streak at this point of the season, leaving it up to coach Vrabel to keep the team hungry this week.
This will be the Titans first look at the changes the Colts made in the off-season. Ultimately they will need to avoid the distraction of the new faces when battling in the trenches. The Colts offensive line is near the top of the league rankings, implicating the need for the Texans defensive front seven to create penetration and make Rivers uncomfortable in the pocket. If the defense is able to get Rivers off his mark they have the potential of winning this AFC South slugfest.
8. Week 6: vs. Houston Texans
This week is an opportune time to take on the Texans in Nashville. The Texans will be reeling from a difficult first quarter of the regular season, opening an opportunity for the Titans to jump out early by setting the tone on defense. There must be a collective sigh of relief among the Titans secondary after Houston traded All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in March.
If Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is able to get going, points will tally up for the visitors in bunches. However with the Titans executing ball control and extending drives they should come out victorious, establishing a nice step towards the AFC South crown.