It’s game time baby!
The NFL season kicks off tomorrow with the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, facing off against the Kansas City Chiefs. I am so excited, even if this first game includes my most hated team in the history of all sports – the Patriots. It’s real NFL football for the first time in over half a year! What is better than that?
To commemorate this momentous occasion, here is my interest level for each game this week. We’ll start at the bottom.
The “Zzzzzzz….” group:
Jets vs Bills
Jaguars vs Texans
Colts vs Rams
The less said about these three games the better.
The “I’ll watch if there isn’t a better game on” group:
Panthers vs 49ers – I want to see Christian McCaffrey. That’s it. I don’t care about anything else in this game.
Ravens vs Bengals – This one just made it out of the first group. There is very little interesting about this game.
Cardinals vs Lions – Matt Stafford is on my fantasy team. So there’s that.
Falcons vs Bears – Matt Ryan and Julio Jones usually bring something interesting to the table.
Saints vs Vikins – AP against his old team deserves a little attention.
The “I’m intrigued” group:
Buccaneers vs Dolphins – I want to see what Winston looks like in his third year with a full compliment of weapons on offense.1
Eagles vs Redskins – Does Wentz take the next step? Does Cousins improve or has he hit his ceiling?
Chargers vs Broncos – I think the Chargers are going to be a lot of fun this year if they stay healthy. Rivers is always worth a look.
Steelers vs Browns – ‘Burger, Bell, and Brown are an awesome trio to watch. I am also curious about DeShone Kizer.
The “Must See TV” group:
Giants vs Cowboys – Two heavy-hitters from the NFC East (Otherwise known as the only division in football to most of the sports media.) This one could have huge ramifications at the end of the season.
Chiefs vs Patriots – Defending champs. Solid Chiefs team. First game of the season. Of course I am watching.
Seahawks vs Packers – Rogers is always must-see TV and these two teams have played in some great ones in the recent past. I’m sold.
Raiders vs Titans – This is not just my Titans’ bias coming out. Two up-and-coming teams. Two young QB’s on the rise. This one should be a lot of fun for the early Sunday schedule.
Staff Predictions for the Tennessee Titans
Anything less than a better record than last year’s 9-7 would be at least a little disappointing to me as a Titans fan-in-law (being a Bears fan first but well connected to Nashville through REO and my college friends). And I think the team is ready for a leap.
I voted for 12-4 last week. NFL Nation has them as one of several teams with 11 wins predicted2 and I think they are team that is easy to overlook and underrate since Nashville is not a major market. On that note, I think Mariota will be approaching a Top 5 quarterback by season’s end, barring injury, and that will be worth a win or two by itself. Going on what Paul Kuharsky wrote last week, I think he is primed to pass Stafford and Rivers at least on his list.
If Indianapolis were in the shape we assumed they’d be in during Luck’s early career arc, I would be less optimistic. But they are not. Tennesee looks to be in prime position to win the division and get a high seed. I’m excited for them.
The Tennessee Titans had a solid season last year winning nine games and barely missing out on the playoffs. They lost a couple games they probably should have won and ended up stealing a couple games they should have lost so all in all they were what their record says they were – a slightly above average team with many strengths, but a few glaring weaknesses.
In the off season they added some solid pieces in free agency and had a definite plan in the draft. They drafted for positions of need and did not simply pick the best players available even if when some projected high picks fell to them. I have no problem with that strategy. As long as the scouts did their job in projecting future performance then this year’s draft should help the team right away.
For these reasons I am predicting an 11-5 record. My head tells me 10-6, but I am going with my heart on this one.
This is my pessimistic take.
While the Titans have been going in the right direction under Coach Mike Mularkey and GM John Robinson, they may see a slump this year. As a whole, the team lacks depth and will struggle to compensate for injuries that come their way. Even though they added personnel to their defensive backfield and wide receiver core, they will continue to struggle to cover the pass or pass the ball very effectively.
I’ve been high on the Titans since last year. I believe they have made numerous improvements on both sides of the ball this offseason and I think that will translate to a few more wins. I am predicting the team will go 11-5 in 2017. This preseason has dampened expectations in Nashville, but we’ll look back on our worries with a laugh by season’s end.
Enjoy the opening week, football fans. It only happens once a year. We’ll be back next week with a recap of Week 1 and a few other items of interest.