Predicting Tennessee Titans' Most Important Games of 2014-15 Season
There will be no time for a slow start in 2014 for the Tennessee Titans after looking at their first four games of their schedule, which includes three tough road games.
Every game on the schedule is important, but some are magnified more than others as key games to reach the postseason. Divisional games always have a higher level of importance, but there are also a couple toss-up games that the Titans will need to take care of business in.
If the Titans can figure out a way to win these particularly important games, then Ken Whisenhunt could very well end up taking the Titans to the postseason in his first year.
Here are the six most important games on the Titans' 2014 schedule.
Titans vs. Cowboys in Week 2
You would have to be absolutely crazy to not circle a home-opener against the Cowboys as one of the most important games on the schedule. The best reality show on television will grace LP Field with its presence in Week 2.
Imagine how much excitement will be generated for the Titans if they can open up their home schedule with a win over the Cowboys. It would get fans once again excited about this team.
The big question mark about this game is if the Titans will have a strong enough offense to hang with the Cowboys, who are going to get their fair share of points.
I don't care how good the Titans defense will turn out to be in 2014, they'll face a tough challenge in this game.
However, the Cowboys' defense has plenty of questions of its own. If the quarterback situation stabilizes for the Titans by this time, then this could end up being an exciting shootout to open the home slate.
Getting a win here would also go a long way in helping the Titans survive the toughest part of their schedule, the first four games on the schedule.
Titans at Bengals in Week 3
Realistically speaking, the Titans' best-case scenario over the first two games is probably 1-1, with two tough matchups against the Chiefs and Cowboys.
Starting 0-2 is once again very possible as the Titans will just be getting adjusted under the new coaching regime.
That makes Week 3 on the road against the Bengals a very important game to keep the season from becoming hopeless early on. Getting a big road win over a solid Bengals team would be a huge confidence builder and would stop any bleeding that may be caused over the first two games.
The Titans' defense will have their hands full with Andy Dalton lining up under center on the opposite side. Dalton is still widely underrated, so the Titans will have to generate plenty of pressure to keep him from shredding their secondary up.
Jake Locker, if he's still the starting quarterback, will be tested in a big way against a defense that ranked third overall in 2013.
The Titans have to limp out of this early stretch of games in 2014 with some form of life, and winning this game will be a major part of that.
Titans at Colts in Week 4
You simply cannot overlook the first divisional game of the 2014 season when deciding the most important games of the Titans' 2014 schedule. It's multiplied even more when you see that it's Andrew Luck and the Colts.
This game will mark the third-straight road opponent that made the playoffs in 2013 for the Titans. It's a tall task for a team that will be made up of a lot of new faces, including maybe even a new starting quarterback by this point.
The Colts have to be the early favorite to win the AFC South, and John Glennon of the Tennessean has the Colts as the favorite in the division. Luck is going to continue to blossom into an elite quarterback, and Lucas Oil Stadium has become a very tough place to play as the opposition.
It's hard to predict this game right now due in large part to the fluidity of the Titans' current quarterback situation.
Will Jake Locker being playing at the high level early on that he was playing at last season? Will he even still be the starter? These are just a couple questions that we'll have answers to when this game comes up on the schedule.
This could potentially set the tone for the division race based on who walks away from this game with the win. The Titans stand to gain a little bit more if they could somehow manage to steal a valuable road win within the division.
It can be argued that these teams are much more evenly matched despite the Colts' recent domination of the series. The four-straight losses the Titans have against the Colts have come by a combined 21 points.
If the Titans win this game, then consider the first quarter of the season a mild success, at the very least.
Titans vs. Browns in Week 5
You may be wondering how a matchup with the lowly Browns can possibly be considered an important game for the Titans.
This will be a critical game in the Titans steering the ship back into the right direction after going through a brutal four-game stretch to open the season. They have to stop any of the negative momentum that is created through that.
A matchup against the Browns will mark an easier portion of the schedule, according to Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. These teams figure to have even bigger questions at quarterback than that of the Titans right now.
The Titans could very well surprise all of us and open the season with four wins, but you would be in the minority if you believe that. A start of 1-3 or 2-2 is way more likely, making this game all the more important as the Titans should be favorites.
Successful teams always put together solid winning streaks, and this game marks a good place to start one in 2014.
This has trap game written all over it if the Titans enter this game unprepared. The Browns are a scrappy team that gave plenty of better teams fits in 2013. The Titans need this win against an AFC opponent to make any sort of run to the playoffs.
Expect one of the big quarterback prospects, like Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles, to be at quarterback for the Browns in this game. It should be a win for the Titans, but it's crucial that they don't slip up here at home.
Titans vs. Texans in Week 8
Heading into your bye week with positive vibes cannot be discounted, and the Titans have the opportunity to get a division win against the Texans before their bye week.
Will the Texans have Johnny Manziel or one of these other quarterback prospects under center for them at this game? Either way, the Titans will most likely be facing a young quarterback for the Texans. It could also, ironically enough, be Ryan Fitzpatrick.
This is a game the Titans have to win if they want any shot at a division crown. They can't keep going down this road of winning one or two division games every year.
The Texans aren't as bad as they were last year, but they're not as good as they were the year before. They're somewhere in between. This is a winnable game for the Titans that they can't let slip out of their grasp like they did in Week 2 last season.
After the first four weeks, the schedule softens up a bit. If the Titans take care of business from Week 5 through Week 7, then this game will be a great opportunity for the Titans to be sent into the bye week with a lot of momentum.
Titans vs. Steelers in Week 11
The Titans opened last season on a very high note by taking down the Steelers on their home turf. It marked the second-straight win the series for the Titans.
This year the Titans get the Steelers on a much bigger stage, when they'll be on Monday Night Football at home.
The Steelers will be out for some serious revenge, and so will their fans. They'll make their presence known on the road like they do at every NFL stadium.
These two teams have become a respectable rivalry, and this game will come right in the middle of the season. Both teams will most likely be battling for their playoff lives when they meet under the bright lights of the national stage.
Another win over the Steelers will put the Titans in great shape to finish the season out strong as the back end of the schedule has many more opportunities for victories.
Don't forget that this will also mark the return of Mike Munchak, as he's now the offensive line coach for the Steelers. It will definitely be odd seeing him wearing a different team's colors.
When we end up looking back on the 2014 season, this game could easily end up being the fork in the road to how much success the Titans have in the first year under Ken Whisenhunt.