Forecasting the 6 Toughest Games on the Tennessee Titans' Schedule

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIJune 18, 2012

Forecasting the 6 Toughest Games on the Tennessee Titans' Schedule

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    The Titans have a very difficult schedule in front of them in 2012. By the numbers, they have one of the easier schedules in the league, but that isn't how the schedule is in reality.

    There are easy games against teams that were very bad in 2011, like the Colts, Dolphins and Vikings, but there are also a number of very tough teams to face as well.

    The Titans will face every team in the tough NFC North, along with a game against the Chargers (a team they haven't beaten since moving to Tennessee), and the Steelers, not to mention last year's AFC champion, the Patriots.

    Here are the six games on the Titans' schedule next season that will end up being the toughest.

6. Vs. Chicago, Week 9

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    The Bears are going to be a very tough team next year. They've added Brandon Marshall, Mike Matz's absurd offensive scheme is gone, and both Jay Cutler and Matt Forte are healthy. However, I only think they're going to be the sixth toughest team the Titans face next season.

    The reason for that is that they did not address their biggest need in the draft at all. Last season, before he was again taken out by a season-ending injury, Jay Cutler got sacked more than any other quarterback in the league.

    Then, the next week, Matt Forte went down for the count with an injury. The Bears were 7-3 at the time, and they didn't win another game.

    The reason for those injuries? The Bears have one of the worst offensive lines in the league. The Titans may have had one of the worst pass rushes in the league last year, but getting to Cutler shouldn't be a problem.

    Of course, with their hard-nosed defense, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler all on the team, they'll still be a very tough team to beat.

5. Vs. Detroit, Week 3

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    This is going to be a bit of an awkward homecoming for Kyle Vanden Bosch, Stephen Tulloch and Jim Schwartz. All of them used to be with the Titans.

    The Lions may have had their fair share of offseason problems with rookie first-round defensive tackle Nick Fairley and second-round running back Mikel Leshoure, but they're still a team to watch.

    Ndamukong Suh may have some attitude issues, but he is an absolute monster. The Titans already have issues at the interior line, so keeping Suh out of the backfield will be a problem.

    Then there's the explosive Lions offense. With Matt Stafford's breakout season last year, there are big expectations from him in 2012. After all, he has the best receiver in the league to throw to, and a great tight end in Brandon Pettigrew.

    Now they also have a legitimate left tackle in first-round selection Riley Reiff, which ought to help their pass-blocking immensely.

4. Vs. Pittsburgh, Week 6

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    The Titans and the Steelers have met every year for the last four years, and it's been a tough defensive battle every time (except 2011). Next year makes five in a row, and it will be tough.

    The Steelers started out slowly last season, and it was their game against the Titans when they turned around. To make it worse on the Titans, the Steelers boosted their offensive line by picking up David DeCastro and Mike Adams.

    The only thing in the Titans favor is that Mike Wallace hasn't signed his tender yet, so he may hold out and affect the team.

    There's also a new offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, who has had a history of clashing with those working with him.

    However, if neither of those things occurs, then the Steelers will likely be what they've been for the last several years: a tough, defensive team that will either win its division or get into the playoffs as a Wild Card.

    They will not be an easy opponent, but at least the Titans get to play them at home.

3. Vs. New England, Week 1

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    The Titans schedule starts with a bang, as they face last year's AFC Champion, the New England Patriots, and it will be one of the toughest games in the schedule.

    On the bright side, if the Titans hold their own against the Patriots, then they'll immediately get some respect around the league. On the downside, their season may begin with an enormous blowout.

    The Patriots bring one of the best offenses in the league, which is now improved with the addition of Brandon Lloyd as a deep threat.

    They've also beefed up their defense by adding Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones in the draft. They'll be a tough opponent, and I don't hold out much hope for a win in this contest.

2. At Houston, Week 4

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    Yeah, I think this game will be tougher than the opener against the Patriots.

    The Texans defense was one of the best in the league last season, even with Mario Williams out for a torn pectoral muscle for most of the season. Now they've also added Whitney Mercilus to their already dangerous pass rush.

    Add to that the fact that they won a playoff game with their third-string quarterback and have the best running back tandem in the league by a pretty wide margin and you have a pretty scary opponent.

    The Titans have the good fortune of playing them twice, too.

    I do think that the Titans have a good chance of winning one of the matchups just because the Texans are a division rival, so anything could happen. That said, I fully expect the Texans to be a serious Super Bowl contender, so they'll be incredibly difficult to beat even once.

    One the bright side, Andre Johnson may not be 100 percent when they play here, which might at least slow their offense down.

1. At Green Bay, Week 16

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    In 2011, the Packers won the Super Bowl, and last season, they went 15-1 before losing to the eventual Super Bowl winner, the New York Giants, so they're a tough opponent.

    To make matters worse, the Titans play them on the road. To make matters even worse than that, the Titans play them on the road in December.

    Lambeau Field late in the season is one of the toughest places to play in the entire league, and it should be especially tough for a team that's used to Tennessee's moderate climate. The Packers almost never lose home games late in the season for that very reason.

    Oh yeah, the Packers also had a great draft, picking up two underrated prospects in Nick Perry and Casey Hayward that should boost their defense and make it resemble 2010's team more than 2011.

    However, I do think that their offense will be a little less potent with the loss of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.

    That said, they're still going to be one of the best teams in the league, and that, along with the ridiculous home-field advantage they enjoy at the season's end, will make them the toughest opponent the Titans will face next season.