We knew who they were playing, and today we found out when the Titans would be playing their 2014 regular season opponents. Here’s the full schedule:
Week 1, Sept. 7: at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 2, Sept. 14: vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 3, Sept. 21: at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 4, Sept. 28: at Indianapolis Colts
Week 5, Oct. 5: vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 6, Oct. 12: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 7, Oct. 19: at Washington Redskins
Week 8, Oct. 26: vs. Houston Texans
Week 9: BYE
Week 10, Nov. 9: at Baltimore Ravens
Week 11, Nov. 17: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Monday Night Football)
Week 12, Nov. 23: at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 13, Nov. 30: at Houston Texans
Week 14, Dec. 7: vs. New York Giants
Week 15, Dec. 14: vs. New York Jets (3:05 PM)
Week 16, Dec. 18: at Jacksonville Jaguars (Thursday Night Football)
Week 17, Dec. 28: vs. Indianapolis Colts
Yup, two prime time games, the mandatory Thursday night contest plus the return to Nashville of Monday Night Football after a season’s absence. All other contests save for the Jets game in Week 15 I noted are currently set for Sunday at noon, though this year flex scheduling starts in Week 5.
Beyond the television notes, my first reaction was that the schedule makers did a team with a new head coach and new coordinators on both sides of the ball absolutely no favors with that start. Three of their first four games are on the road, and all of those are against teams coming off a playoff appearance, while the home contest is against a Cowboys team that finished one regular season win short of making their own trip to the postseason. The next four games are considerably softer, but lines set right now will assuredly have the Titans as underdogs in all three of those road games and perhaps even the home game against the Cowboys. Even if your expectations for the 2014 season are as modest as mine are, starting 1-3 or 0-4 is not a priority. Yes, of course starts that seem rough may not end up actually being that bad, but after rough-looking beginnings in 2009 and 2012 actually did leave the Titans in not particularly good shape, I will be further tempering my early expectations.
On the other hand, following that rough opening stretch with the four worst teams in the NFL in the NFL the previous season (using draft tiebreakers), including three home games, is about as good a consolation prize as you could have expected. While the Redskins may be significantly better than their 2013 record suggests, the Titans may well be favored in those three home contests.
One thing I am glad to not see on this year’s schedule is the sort of quick turnaround in division games we’ve seen the past couple seasons, notably playing the Colts twice in three weeks last year. The Texans games are closest together, and even they are five weeks apart.
The second half of the schedule stands out less, in terms of its particular flow and the impact of the team. How they handle the first half-whether the Titans can perform better than expected against the rough first quarter and whether they can take advantage of the probable softness of the second quarter-will tell us more about the team. With the last trip north coming before Thanksgiving, there should be no cold weather games. I am surprised the Titans will get the two New York teams in consecutive weeks, though I would have to ask my NYC-area brethren if that sort of pairing is as unusual as I would guess it to be. Also, I assumed the AFC South Thursday Night Football games would be shunted to the NFL Network half of the package, and considering how putrid the division was it’s no surprise two teams from it got stuck with the Week 16 “we don’t like you” game. At least the Titans did get the Week 17 contest against last year’s winner, though given the Jaguars’ and Texans’ records last year they deserved it.
When it comes down to it, though, you have to play the teams you have to play. The Titans were going to have to play those road games against 2013 playoff teams sooner or later, just as they were going to benefit from playing those teams with awful 2013 records sooner or later. Now we just know a lot of the former will be sooner and a lot of the latter will be later.