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Tennessee Titans 2021 schedule: Toughest stretch, opponent preview, key matchups, predictions and more

Things are getting frustrating for the Tennessee Titans. Having had both the talent and a chance to do something special the last two seasons, they haven’t been able to get over the hump. And with so much upheaval in the AFC South going into the 2021 season, their stability and talent again put them in position to take the division crown — the least they’re looking to do. They have it in them to go deep into the playoffs, led by the inhuman being known as Derrick Henry, along with a blossoming A.J. Brown at receiver and Ryan Tannehill calling the shots under center. And if Brown gets his wish and plays alongside All-Pro wideout Julio Jones this season, their chances improve exponentially.

That won’t solve their issues on defense though, having continually struggled in the pass rush. That puts a lot of pressure on a secondary that’s been exposed at times, but head coach Mike Vrabel hopes to have all of that buttoned up following free agency and the NFL draft. They’ll need to, because if Carson Wentz reaches prime form again in his reunion with Frank Reich in Indianapolis, and if Trevor Lawrence is as advertised in Jacksonville, bullying the opposing quarterback will be the name of the game — the verdict is still out on who’ll be the quarterback for the Houston Texans amid the Deshaun Watson controversy.

The Titans walk into Week 1 as 2.5-point favorites against the deadly Arizona Cardinals, and winning that game would send an early message they’re leveled up and ready for a schedule that looks a bit unforgiving in a division that’s improved overall. 

Need a quick betting primer on your favorite NFL team for the 2021 season? Here are links to schedule breakdowns for all 32 clubs.

Key schedule observations

  • Late-season bye (Week 13)
  • Three separate two-game homestands
  • Three primetime games (barring flex)

Toughest stretchArizona Cardinals

Week 1 – Sunday, Sept. 12
Location: Nissan Stadium (Nashville)
Time: 1 p.m. ET

An explosive matchup awaits the Titans in Week 1, and it’s to their benefit they’ll be at home for it. Their defense will be tested early and often by Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense, and they’ll need every ounce of juice from Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown to overcome J.J. Watt, Chandler Jones, Budda Baker and more. They can win this without Julio Jones, but if they make that trade then their chances leap upward.

Prediction: 30-27, Titans

Week 2 – Sunday, Sept. 19
Location: Lumen Field (Seattle)
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

If they thought Week 1 was tough, and it was, the NFC West continues testing them as the Titans fly across the country to face Russell Wilson and Co. in Seattle. This one they won’t escape, and especially if the 12th Man is back in the stands as expected. 

Prediction: 30-20, Seahawks

First meeting: Week 3 – Nissan Stadium (Nashville) – Sunday, Sept. 26, 1 p.m. ET
Second meeting: Week 8 – Lucas Oil Stadium – Sunday, Oct. 31, 1 p.m. ET

The gauntlet continues to open the season, going from the NFC West to a direct rival in the Colts. And with the Colts having traded for Carson Wentz, the Titans will get their first chance to test the former top pick, who reunites with Frank Reich in Indy. The Titans take the first matchup as Wentz tries to learn his new digs, but drop the rematch in Week 8 once he does.

Week 3 Prediction: 21-20, Titans
Week 8 Prediction: 24-21, Colts

Week 4 – Sunday, Oct. 3 
Location: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford)
Time: 1 p.m. ET

Robert Saleh is a first-time head coach who also has to install an offense led by a rookie in Zach Wilson. They’ll probably get it figured out in 2021, but maybe not as early as Week 4 against a seasoned mind like Mike Vrabel. As long as the turf doesn’t interfere with the game, it’s one the Titans can win, but they better be on high alert for a potential upset.

Prediction: 24-14, Titans

First meeting: Week 5 – TIAA Bank Field – Sunday, Oct. 10, 1 p.m. ET
Second meeting: Week 14 – Nissan Stadium (Nashville) – Sunday, Dec. 12, 1 p.m. ET

From one rookie QB to another, the Titans go from facing Wilson to trying to keep a cap on first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence. Much like the Jets, however, the Jaguars have both a rookie QB and a first-time NFL head coach, and no one knows if Urban Meyer can rollover his collegiate greatness to the pro ranks. Vrabel takes him to school in the first matchup, and then again in the second.

Week 5 Prediction: 30-13, Titans
Week 14 Prediction: 35-20, Titans

Week 6 – Monday, Oct. 18
Location: Nissan Stadium (Nashville)
Time: 8:15 p.m. ET

Getting as many wins as possible is key before Week 6, because the schedule gets truly unforgiving at this point. Hosting the Bills as opposed to traveling to face them helps, but Josh Allen has taken the next step with his high-powered offense and the defense is learning how to impact games. It’ll be a great AFC clash, but the Bills figure out how to steal the win by virtue of Allen creating on the fly.

Prediction: 28-21, Bills

Week 7 – Sunday, Oct. 24
Location: Nissan Stadium (Nashville)
Time: 1 p.m. ET

Trying to recover from their loss to the Bills won’t be easy when the next team has Patrick Mahomes under center. For if the Bills are a challenge (and they are), the Chiefs are simply another animal, as the Titans have continually found out. They’ll need their home fans to help power them up in Week 7, but Mahomes is still gonna Mahomes. 

Prediction: 38-27, Chiefs

Week 9 – Sunday, Oct. 7
Location: SoFi Stadium (Los Angeles)
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET 

Two opportunities to send a message were squandered in Week 6 and Week 7, and a loss to the Colts in Week 8 doesn’t stop the bleeding. Assuming Matthew Stafford is firing on all cylinders, this doesn’t bode well for the Titans. Aaron Donald will also be a handful, along with his defensive line compatriots, but Henry is an alien and — again — if the Titans have Julio Jones for this matchup, they can match serve and then take the win. If they don’t, it’s still possible, just more difficult. 

Prediction: 28-27, Titans

Week 10 – Sunday, Nov. 14
Location: Nissan Stadium (Nashville)
Time: 1 p.m. ET

The Titans can use the last game as a statement, but they have to start stringing together wins. Facing the Saints without Drew Brees gives them a chance to do it, and especially at Nissan Stadium. After facing the Bills, Chiefs, Colts and Rams in quick succession, this game should feel much less daunting. 

Prediction: 31-16, Titans

Houston Texans

First meeting: Week 11 – Nissan Stadium (Nashville) – Sunday, Nov. 21, 1 p.m. ET
Second meeting: Week 18 – NRG Stadium (Houston) – Sunday, Jan. 9, 1 p.m. ET

For any team needing a win, playing the dismal and catastrophic Texans is the prescription. The Titans should down the Texans fairly convincingly in Week 11 if Deshaun Watson isn’t on the field, and the same applies to Week 18. If Watson is under center, it’s still no guarantee the Texans win games because as impressive as he’s been on the field, the team lacks talent overall to win games consistently.

Week 11 Prediction: 35-20, Titans
Week 18 Prediction: 28-10, Titans

Week 12 – Sunday, Nov. 28
Location: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough)
Time: 1 p.m. ET

Back to their winning ways, it’s time for Vrabel to face his mentor turned NFL rival in Bill Belichick. And unlike in 2020, the Patriots went all-in in free agency and the draft, so they’re ready for the reload, and Belichick knows everything Vrabel is thinking before it’s even considered a thought — the added challenge being in the Patriots having home field advantage.

Prediction: 27-14, Patriots

Week 15 – Sunday, Dec. 19
Location: Heinz Field (Pittsburgh)
Time: 1 p.m. ET

By now, you’re truly understanding what the Titans are up against this year, schedule-wise. This short hop to Pittsburgh after a win in Jacksonville will pit them against another possible contender, but Ben Roethlisberger is showing signs of rapid decline. At any given moment, he can either win the game or give it a way, and Vrabel should be able to scheme into forcing the latter result in an impressive upset at Heinz Field fueled largely by Derrick Henry in the Pittsburgh cold.

Prediction: 24-20, Titans

Week 16 – Thursday, Dec. 23
Location: Nissan Stadium (Nashville)
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET 

Playoff seeding looms large in these final few matchups, and for both of these teams. The 49ers may have installed Trey Lance as QB1 at this point of the season, and that could create big trouble if the Titans are still not secured at the edges. The 49ers take this win in Nashville, setting the Titans up for potentially huge AFC matchups to finish the regular season.

Prediction: 28-21, 49ers

Week 17 – Sunday, Jan. 2
Location: Nissan Stadium (Nashville)
Time: 1 p.m. ET 

It’s safe to assume both (or either one) of these clubs will either need this win to secure a playoff spot, or playoff seeding. If the matchup were in South Florida, Miami would have the edge in what could be viewed as a mostly even matchup with a slight lean toward the Titans. Take that lean and add home-field advantage and the Titans start building momentum for what they hope will be a run in January.

Prediction: 30-23, Titans

Final 2021 record: 11-6