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A pessimistic look at the Titans’ 2011 schedule

It’s really too bad that newspaper reporters don’t get to write their own headlines.  Oftentimes, the person who does that applies a misleading headline to the reporter’s work.  A recent case in point is John Glennon’s look at the Titans schedule, with the headline, Analysis: Tennessee Titans schedule is set for early wins

That’s grossly misleading, suggesting that Glennon is predicting the Titans will get off to a good start.

The way the schedule looks now, on paper, it seems likely the Titans should be favored only once in the first seven games.  In those seven games, only twice will the Titans face a team with a worse record than their own last year and one of those teams, Cleveland, has improved and will get the Titans at home.

Furthermore, it looks like the Titans could end up the season with a record as bad as last year.

Nine times this season, the Titans will look across the field at a team that had a better record last year.  In two games, both against Houston, they’ll play a team with the same record as theirs was last year.  In only five games will they face a team with a worse record last year.

OK, so that was last year, what about this year?  Let’s look at the over/under for wins of the Titans opponents, according to the sportsbook Bodog.  The over/under for wins by the Titans this year is 6½, according to Bodog.  Only four teams (Denver, Cincinnati, Carolina, Buffalo) on the Titans’ schedule have an over/under of less than 6½ (Bodog does not currently have an over/under for the Colts or Texans.)  Related note: Football Outsiders Almanac 2011 projects the Titans for 5.0 wins, tied  with Oakland for fewest wins in the league.

So looking at it one way, at last year’s records, the Titans are better than five teams on the schedule.  Looking at it the other way, this year’s expectations, the Titans are better than only four teams.  (Or not better than any, according to FO.)

Does anyone, other than the Tennessean’s headline writer, really think the Titans will win a lot of early games?

Here’s a week by week look at the schedule with a few thoughts.

Week One at Jacksonville (8-8 last year), Bodog over/under 6½
This was a team that nearly won the division last year, but lost Maurice Jones-Drew to a knee injury. Without MJD, the Jags lost their final three games. On paper, they’ve improved their defense and they’re favored by 3 points this week.

Week Two vs Ratbirds (12-4), 10½ o/u
Points will be hard to come by for the Titans.

Week Three vs Broncos (4-12) 6
This is the only game in the first eight weeks where the Titans should be favored.  However, the Broncos did manage to get a win from the Titans last year. If the Titans can’t get a pass rush on Orton, which may be a big problem this year, watch out.

Week Four at Cleveland (5-11) 6½
Bodog’s over/under for the Browns is 6½, the same as the Titans, who face an easier schedule.  The Browns will have home field advantage in this one too. If an early line was being made right now, Cleveland should be favored by a few points.

Week Five at Pittsburgh (12-4) 10½
This game could get real ugly. If you’ve got young kids, you probably shouldn’t allow them to watch TV that day.

Week Six – bye
If the Titans have a 2-3 record at the bye, they should consider themselves very fortunate. They might beat Denver and will maybe steal a second win against either the Jags or Browns. There’s also a good chance of a 1-4 record going into division play.

Week Seven vs Texans (6-10), no o/u
Funny thing, usually the Titans and Texans have close games. Last year they split, but neither game was close. Houston upgraded their secondary in free agency and I expect the Texans’ defense to be much improved. By Week Seven, Wade Phillips should have the new 3-4 playing well. I read a good article about Phillips’ record in his first year with new defenses and how he was able to turn things around. I’ll post a link to it, if I’m able to find it.

Week Eight vs Colts (10-6), no o/u
The best thing about this game is that it’s at home.

Week Nine vs Bengals (4-12), Bodog o/u 5½
This should be only the second game this year in which the Titans will be favored.

Week Ten at Carolina (2-14) 4½
The Panthers were the worst team in the league last year. This looks like another winnable game, even though it’s on the road. The Titans could actually be 4-5 after this game, but the schedule will be a bear after this, with the NFC South’s top three teams (combined 34-14 last year) and all three division rivals, two of them on the road.

Week 11 at Atlanta (13-3) 10½
Like the game at Pittsburgh in Week Five, this is another game that could get real ugly.

Week 12 vs Buccaneers (10-6) 8
Tampa is a team on the rise.  Raheem Morris has received a lot of well-deserved credit for turning them around.

Week 13 at Buffalo (4-12) 5½
The Bills were a little better last year than their record indicated, I thought. Buffalo is a tough place to play in December, especially when the wind is whipping in off Lake Erie.

Week 14 vs Saints (11-5) 10
Never mind the Titans’ “win” in the preseason scrimmage, New Orleans should be heavily favored in this one.

Week 15 at Indianapolis (10-6)
I have no opinion about this game.

Week 16 vs Jaguars (8-8) 6½
Will the Jaguars be in contention for a playoff berth in Week 16? If not, will they be motivated to play a game on the road on Christmas Eve?

Week 17 at Houston (6-10)
Will the Texans be in contention for postseason play? Will they have a seed locked up and perhaps rest their starters against the Titans?

What are your thoughts? Will the Titans win more than 6½ games?