Expectations for the Tennessee Titans in 2016 aren’t very lofty. Most fans and analysts aren’t expecting a playoff push or even a truly competitive season in their division. Even the most optimistic projections have the Titans winning only six games this upcoming season. One reason is a relatively tough schedule, especially on the front end.
Titans fans might want to brace themselves.
The last three years, the Titans have won the first game of their season. Yet, despite the positive start in each case, Tennessee’s seasons quickly went downhill — all three ended below .500.
The Titans could certainly do the same this year.
Tennessee’s first game of 2016 is at home against the Minnesota Vikings, a team with a young, developing quarterback that was able to make the playoffs last year and improved its roster this offseason. The Titans have beaten better teams over the last three years to start their seasons (Pittsburgh in 2013 and Kansas City in 2014), but a win against Minnesota is far from a guarantee.
After that, Tennessee travels to Detroit, come back home to host Oakland, then go on the road to Houston and Miami.
Realistically, the Titans could start the season 1-4. Detroit isn’t necessarily a good team, but its offense is still dangerous even with the departure of Calvin Johnson… and that game is on the road. The other two road games against Houston and Miami won’t be any easier. The home game against Oakland looks like Tennessee’s best shot at a victory in those first five games.
The Titans then have three straight home games against Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville. All are winnable, but Tennessee fell to the Browns last season, have lost nine straight games to the Colts, and will face a much improved Jaguar squad.
Then comes a road game against San Diego, a home game against Green Bay, and road games against Indianapolis and Chicago before the Titans finally get a bye in Week 13.
Given how their schedule shapes up, they would be lucky to be .500 after their first eight games. A 3-5 record is more likely, but even 2-6 or 1-7 wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.
Tennessee doesn’t have an easy stretch on its schedule based on what we know about the teams it’ll face. The Titans have six games against teams that made the playoffs last year (two against Houston), and most of the weaker teams on their schedule have improved from last season and are on the road: Detroit, Miami, San Diego and Chicago.
One positive is that the Titans have had slightly more success on the road than at home over the last couple seasons. They have only five wins in the last two years, but three of those wins came on the road against Kansas City, Tampa Bay and New Orleans.
Even if the Titans start out 1-4 in their first five games, matchups against Cleveland, Jacksonville, San Diego and Chicago in the next seven games will provide opportunities to snag much-needed victories for a franchise that has gained few of them over the last three years.
A slow start shouldn’t derail the 2016 season, no matter how bad it looks. The goal for 2016 is to improve and get experience for the younger players on the roster. Improvement is the aim for Tennessee this season.
As long as this team can earn more victories than 2015 and look better while doing so, it won’t matter how it starts the coming campaign.