Tennessee Titans: 5 Biggest Swing Games on 2012 NFL Schedule
Every season has those few games that can turn a season going nowhere into a season that puts you into the playoffs.
It's no secret that the Tennessee Titans have their work cut out for them on this season's schedule, especially the first half of it.
There are certain games that the Titans are just simply going to be over-matched, like Week 1 against the Patriots.
That leaves the Titans with six predicted wins and five virtual locks for a loss.
However, there are five games that really jump out as games that could be the difference between a playoff berth or another playoff miss.
If the Titans take four of these five games, then Mike Munchak will get his first taste of the playoffs as an NFL head coach.
Week 2 @ San Diego
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The Chargers presented the Titans' defense with all sorts of problems the last time these teams met in 2010, but the Titans' defense is a lot different now.
Young guys like Colin McCarthy and Karl Klug have emerged as cornerstones of this defense heading into next season.
Most likely the Titans will be coming off a season-opening loss to the Patriots, so this game will have major implications. After all, starting 0-2 usually doesn't mean good things to come.
This will be the second-straight week that the Titans' defense will face one of the better offenses in the NFL.
Luckily for the Titans, their offense seems to really be evolving into a strong one in their own right. They'll need to put up plenty of points to keep up with Philip Rivers and company.
These same Titans receivers had a strong showing against the Chargers back in 2010.
Road wins are at such a premium in the NFL. If the Titans can steal one out west, then it will make everyone quickly forget about that loss in their home-opener.
It will also give them plenty of confidence heading back home against another tough opponent.
Week 3 vs. Detroit
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Former Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will make his first trip back to LP Field as head coach of the Lions in Week 3.
If the Titans are 0-2 at this point, then this will be a must-win if they're going to make the playoffs. The AFC is just too stacked to start 0-3 and make the playoffs.
The Lions have acquired the tag of being one of the dirtier teams in the league, so the Titans will have to bring that same attitude to win this game.
The biggest challenge for the Titans in this game will be figuring out who's going to cover Calvin Johnson. Both Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty will be at a major height disadvantage in this game.
The key will be for the Titans' secondary to contain Johnson, because they certainly won't completely stop him. The pass rush will also have to put a ton of pressure on Matthew Stafford to keep him from getting too comfortable.
Once again the Titans offense will probably have to put up 20-plus points to even have a chance, which is perhaps why they drafted Kendall Wright in the first round. They saw these first three matchups and knew they would have to score plenty of points.
If the Titans are 2-1 heading into their showdown with Houston at Reliant Stadium, then it could mean it's going to be a special season in Music City.
Week 7 @ Buffalo
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It's hard to find a silver-lining in the Titans' schedule, but at least they don't have to go to Buffalo in December again.
This time the Titans will meet the Bills in Week 7, and odds are the Titans will have a less than flattering record when they make their trip up north to Ralph Wilson Stadium.
What makes this a swing game is that the Titans will be in desperate need to stop the bleeding. They'll probably be under .500 and a little beat up.
The Bills will be yet another tough challenge for the Titans defense on the early portion of this schedule. In fact, six of the first seven opponents ranked in the top half of the NFL in total offense in 2011.
Even though the Titans won last year's meeting, they gave up nearly 400 yards of offense.
What saved the Titans in last season's meeting was Chris Johnson finally having a strong outing, and he'll have a great opportunity to do that again this time around.
Simply put, an all important road win against the Bills could get the Titans back on the right track as the easier part of the schedule comes up.
Week 13 vs. Houston
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At this point in the season we'll know where the Titans are heading, whether it's in the tank or to the playoffs.
If the Titans are still in the playoff hunt, then they'll really need to hold serve against the AFC South favorite.
The Texans really had the Titans number last season, even in their season finale loss.
With the Titans defense having a year more of experience, they should avoid giving up another 41 points to this division rival.
In that 41-7 loss to the Texans at LP Field, the Titans got virtually no pressure on Matt Schaub. He was able to sit back and throw darts to his talented receiving corps.
Akeem Ayers should be a much better pass rusher this year at linebacker, and the addition of Kamerion Wimbley should also solve some of those pass-rushing woes of last season.
Winning division games at home is so important, so the Titans will need to win this game to have any chance of overtaking the Texans.
It very well could be Jake Locker time by this point, which could mean the Titans will need every win they can get after that tough first half stretch of the schedule.
Week 15 vs. New York Jets
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These two teams put on a good show the last time they met in 2009, but both teams have obviously gone through their changes since then.
This game could very have major playoff implications for both the Titans and the Jets.
The intriguing question about this game is what kind of role Tim Tebow will have for the Jets by this point in the season.
Last season the Titans were lucky enough to catch the Broncos just before the Tebow magic began.
If somehow Tebow has supplanted Mark Sanchez as starting quarterback, then all I can say is buckle your seat belts up for this one.
If anything, we know the Jets will have one heck of a punt protector out there.
This is a very winnable game for the Titans at home as the Jets have gradually regressed over the last few seasons.
Obviously this will be a very physical game, and the Titans defense will need to match the Jets defense to have a chance.
Points will be hard to come by against Rex Ryan's crew. It will be an interesting test for the Titans, but a win here could set them up for a trip to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.