Titans' schedule: Long rest for opponents, divisional spacing, prime time and more

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Notes and thoughts on the Titans’ 2021 schedule.


Travel: The two big road trips are well spaced. The Seattle trip is Week 2, sandwiched between home games. The Sunday Night Football trip to the Rams comes on the heels of a trip to Indianapolis, and the long, late trip back is followed by two home games. Overall, not too bad.

National eyeballs: They host a Monday night game (Week 6 against the Bills), they appear on Sunday Night Football (Week 9 at the Rams) and they host a Thursday night game (Week 16 against the 49ers). That's pretty good visibility for a team that often does not get it. The Titans had three primetime games scheduled last season. They got a fourth on a Tuesday night when they returned from their extended COVID-19 layoff and pounded the Bills 42-16.

Flexing makes it possible for the Titans to gain another primetime game or even two if they are faring well. For those upset about three, I'd remind you how entertaining they were in primetime in 2020. No, it shouldn't be based on that. but like it or not, the networks load up on marquee teams and teams with unavoidable star power. The Titans didn't exactly force their way on more with what they did in last year, when they won an ugly 16-14 game in Denver as the nightcap of the Monday night doubleheader on opening weekend, got hammered 34-17 in Indianapolis on a Thursday night and looked horrible losing 40-14 in the snow in Green Bay.


Divisional spacing: Bravo on the divisional rematch spacing. The league too often fails at this and puts the second game far too close to the first. I've not searched the full league schedule for this terrible flaw, but they got it right with Tennessee. The Titans-Colts games have four games between them. The Titans-Texans games have five games and six weeks between them. The Titans-Jaguars games have seven games and eight weeks between them. That is as it should be. 

Toughest stretch: Weeks 6-8 may qualify as a significant AFC measuring stick if teams hold their expected form. Buffalo and Kansas City, who played in the 2020 AFC Championship Game, come to Nashville for consecutive games, before the Titans head to Indianapolis for a rematch of Week 3 against the team that's expected to be their primary AFC South competition. When it's over the Titans head off to another game that looks tough, against the Rams.

Pre-Christmas: The Titans draw a home Thursday night game against the 49ers on Dec. 23. I have to think they will like that. Yes, it’s a short week leading into the holiday, but it gives them a mini-bye that covers them for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and gets them rested heading into week 17 and 18 and, they hope, for the playoffs.

Late bye: Everyone says anytime is a good time for a bye. But early byes are bad. The Titans get their in Week 13 (of 18 now) and then they have a mini-bye after their Week 16 Thursday night game. I think it’s favorable, but that’s easy to say before we see how injuries play out.

Flexible: Flex scheduling for Sunday Night Football is in effect for Weeks 5-17 and there is no Week 18 SNF game with the potential for a big implication game to be moved.

Vrabel games: He won't care a bit, but Mike Vrabel will coach against all three teams that he played for in his 14-year career as an NFL linebacker: against Kansas City (Oct. 24), at New England (Nov. 28) and at Pittsburgh (Dec. 19). He's already coached against them all.

Personal matchups: Plenty of new Titans will see their former teams. Denico Autry made it clear he will be looking forward to facing the Colts. Josh Reynolds (Rams), Bud Dupree (Steelers) and Janoris Jenkins (Saints) apple icon 144x144 precomposedwill also face their former teams. Tennessee will play against guys who used to wear two-toned blue starting with Malcolm Butler on opening day with the Cardinals and moving on to Corey Davis (Jets), Jonnu Smith (Patriots) and Desmond King (Texans).

Finale: If the NFL truly wants meaningful division games at the end of the season, then the second Titans-Colts matchup is the right game to cap the AFC South’s schedule. Instead, we get Titans-Texans and Colts-Jaguars. Yes, teams are unpredictable year to year.

But the Texans are going to be bad and the Jaguars are not going from 1-15 to good in one season. The schedule-makers probably didn’t want to put Jaguars-Texans Week 1 (a gift for Urban Meyer and Jacksonville) and Texans-Jaguars all the way at the other end of the slate in Week 18. So here is the bad result of that.

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