The Tennessee Titans’ 2021 schedule has no shortage of intriguing matchups.
The Titans will face off against star players who signed with new teams this offseason, early MVP candidates, plenty of rookie quarterbacks, a handful of former players and coach Mike Vrabel will clash with one of his NFL coaches for the third time.
But perhaps the most exciting matchups will be in the AFC South, the division they hope to win for a second straight season for the first time in franchise history.
No matter how much success the Jacksonville Jaguars have this season, the league’s spotlight will follow them everywhere. A former college football coaching legend who guided three teams to national titles, Urban Meyer seeks to rebuild the Jaguars. Vrabel spent two years on Meyer’s coaching staff at Ohio State (2012, 2013). With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jaguars selected the most heralded quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.
Elsewhere in the division, the Indianapolis Colts, who figure to be the Titans’ biggest threat, will once again have a new face under center. This time, it will be 2016 No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz, who hopes to revive his career after a disappointing finish with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Houston Texans, after a tumultuous year, will most likely boast a new quarterback too. Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson requested a trade earlier this offseason before several sexual assault allegations were brought against him.
Here are the matchups that provide the most compelling matchups:
Week 1 vs Arizona Cardinals: J.J. Watt played against the Titans plenty of times over his 10 years with the Houston Texans. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year headlined this offseason’s free-agent class and ultimately signed with the Cardinals after numerous teams, including the Titans, expressed interest. He’ll try to terrorize the Titans’ offense once again this season. This time, in new threads – and right at the start.
Week 6 vs. Buffalo Bills (ESPN Monday Night Football): Josh Allen had arguably his most frustrating 2020 performance in an otherwise breakout campaign when he faced the Titans last October. In the 42-16 loss, the Bills quarterback threw two interceptions that led to touchdowns. Allen will surely be a preseason MVP candidate this year, and the Bills will be a Super Bowl favorite after falling short in the AFC title game last January. This will be Allen’s third trip to Nissan Stadium. He went 1-1 in the first two.
Week 12 at New England Patriots: The Titans didn’t have too much success against Bill Belichick’s Patriots dynasty until one of his former players took the helm. Mike Vrabel is 2-0 against his former coach/team in his still-young tenure as Titans head coach. One of those victories came in the 2019 AFC Wild Card round at Gillette Stadium. The Titans will return to that scene for the first time since that upset. Considering all that has changed with the Patriots’ roster since that night, the Titans shouldn’t be underdogs this time. But as long as Belichick roams the sidelines, the matchup maintains its luster.
Week 4 at New York Jets: The Titans selected Davis at No. 5 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft with hopes that he would quickly become a No. 1 wide receiver. The closest he got to that form was 2020, his last season with the franchise. Unsurprisingly, Davis was too expensive for the Titans to keep in free agency. With a new team and a lucrative contract, Davis will have a chance to show his worth against his former team.
Week 2 at Seattle Seahawks: This one should be circled on the calendar for a number of reasons. Primarily, two of the game’s best young wide receiver stars – and former college teammates – will be on the same field for the first time as pros. Titans Pro Bowler A.J. Brown shares a close bond with Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf, who is one of the most imposing physical specimens in all of football. The pair played together at Ole Miss and have quickly emerged as No. 1 wide receivers for their respective NFL teams.
Week 15 at Pittsburgh Steelers: Bud Dupree headlined the Titans’ 2021 free-agent class. The linebacker, who expects to bolster a Titans pass rush that struggled mightily in 2020, admitted that this day will be emotional for him in a Players Tribune column. He spent his first six seasons in Pittsburgh before he signed with Tennessee. Expect this to be a storyline for both sides leading up to this contest.
Week 10 vs. New Orleans Saints: The Saints have not had a question mark at quarterback in quite some time. They do now after Drew Brees, who surely will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, announced his retirement following last season. The Titans were 2-2against Brees-led Saints teams. They will look to get off on the right foot against whoever emerges as New Orleans’ quarterback this season.
Week 9 at Los Angeles Rams (NBC Sunday Night Football): At one point, Jalen Ramsey, who is arguably the mouthiest and most intense cornerback in the game, seemed destined to be a headache for AFC South quarterbacks for years. But the Jacksonville Jaguars traded the No. 5 overall pick in 2016 to the Rams in October 2019. This will be the first time he faces the Titans since that deal. Ramsey’s confident and in-your-face style of play is always entertaining.