It is still to be determined whether some or any NFL fans will be able watch games in person this year.
Regardless, there are contests on every schedule that supporters want to see their team win more than others. In other words: not every one of the 16 matchups are created equal. Some are shaped by years of head-to-head battles, playoff disappointment, recent results or other factors.
Or to put it another way, there are some teams that people hate, for whatever reason. It is part of why sports are so compelling.
With that in mind, here is a look at the Tennessee Titans’ 2020 opponents ranked by hate:
Baltimore (Week 11, away): No team has ruined more things for the Titans than the Ravens. From being the first visiting team to win at Nissan Stadium (2000), two playoff upsets after Tennessee had the NFL’s best regular-season record (2000, 2008), 11 sacks in a 2018 meeting and a bunch of other stuff, Baltimore has a way of making things miserable for the Titans and their fans. The joy of last season’s playoff victory has not faded, folks want to keep that feeling at least a little longer. Hate rating: 10.
Denver (Week 1, away): The Broncos humbled Tennessee in last season’s meeting, which Denver won 16-0 and prompted coaches to bench quarterback Marcus Mariota. Then they took defensive lineman Jurrell Casey for virtually nothing in an offseason trade. For Titans fans, a fast start to the season would be suitable payback at this point. Hate rating: 8.
Indianapolis (Week 10, home; Week 12, away): The Colts no longer rule the division as they once did, but they still make it more difficult than any other for the Titans to finish on top. They swept the season series every year from 2012-16 and again in 2018, capped by a victory at Nissan Stadium in a Week 17 showdown for that season’s final playoff spot. Hate rating: 7.
Buffalo (Week 5, home): This will be the third straight year Tennessee and Buffalo meet in Week 5. The Bills won a pair of ugly, low-scoring affairs – 13-12 in 2018 and 14-7 in 2019 – that followed victories, which had the Titans and their fans feeling good. Buffalo is a popular pick to unseat New England in the AFC East, and this is Tennessee’s chance to deal that team a setback. Hate rating: 6.
Houston (Week 6, home; Week 17, away): More often than not in recent years, the Titans and Texans have split their season series. Houston has won the AFC South four of the last five years, which makes it the team to beat. The fact that coach Mike Vrabel was hired off Houston’s staff has added intrigue but the bad blood that once was epitomized by Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson has cooled in recent years. Hate rating: 6.
Pittsburgh (Week 4, home): There was a time when “Pittsburgh week” created tension throughout the entire organization. Those days are gone, but there are still enough Steelers fans in Middle Tennessee that the intensity and debate will ramp up again somewhat in the days preceding this matchup. Hate rating. 5.
Jacksonville (Week 2, home; Week 14, away): The Titans established that they are the big brother in this relationship when they won all three meetings in 1999, the last in the AFC Championship. Add six triumphs in the last eight encounters and this one loses the luster of a typical division rivalry. Hate rating: 4.
Minnesota (Week 3, away): If these teams played more than once every four years, the Vikings might elicit stronger emotions. Since the franchise relocated from Houston, Tennessee is 1-5 against Minnesota and the average score of those games is 28-16. Randy Moss had more receptions and yards in both games he played for Minnesota against Tennessee (1998, 2001) than he did during his entire eight-game stint with the Titans in 2010. Hate rating: 3.
Green Bay (Week 16, away): It won’t be the opponent so much as the setting (a prime-time game at historic Lambeau Field) and the place on the schedule that will make this a must-win the minds of most Titans fans. It will be a bigger deal to Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who interviewed to be the Titans coach in 2018 but ultimately settled for one season as Vrabel’s offensive coordinator. Hate rating: 2.
Cincinnati (Week 8, away): Long gone is the memory of a disastrous 41-14 loss that ruined 1997, the franchise’s first season in Tennessee. The likelihood that Joe Burrow, the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, will be the Bengals’ starting quarterback will attract the attention of Titans fans but won’t necessarily stir their passion. Hate rating: 2.
Cleveland (Week 13, home): The Browns have changed quarterbacks and coaches and just about everything else so many times in recent years that the most compelling aspect of this matchup is the fact that Cleveland’s owner, Jimmy Haslam Jr., is a Tennessee-based businessman. Hate rating: 2
Detroit (Week 15, home): In the 23 years since the franchise left Houston, there have been five meetings with the Lions. Tennessee won all five. Hate rating: 1.
Chicago (Week 9, home): The last time the Bears played at Nissan Stadium (2012) some downtown restaurants ran out of beer. It is always a good time when Chicago comes to town. Hate rating: 1.