5 Games Tennessee Titans Have to Win to Make the Playoffs
The Titans were one win away from a playoff bid last season, and that was with Chris Johnson having the worst season of his career by a wide margin.
The Titans have a tough schedule ahead of them this season, but with a few key wins, they could end up making the postseason. It won't be easy, but it's certainly possible.
Here are five games where the outcomes will be crucial in getting them there.
1. New England Patriots (Week 1)
I'm going to go ahead and get the controversial one out of the way. While I don't think this game is absolutely critical for the Titans to get to the playoffs, I do think it'll be tougher for them if they can't hammer out a win.
The Patriots will be a very tough team next season—they always are—but they are far from unbeatable. Remember that Tom Brady is 34 years old and has been declining slightly for a few years now (but that's for another article); he could drop off at any time.
To get to 10 wins, the Titans are going to have to pull a major upset against someone. They did it last season against the Ravens, so maybe they can do it to the Pats in 2012.
2. @ San Diego Chargers (Week 2)
The Titans have never beaten the Chargers. They have if you count the games way back when they were still in Texas, but if you look at the team since the move (which is what I do), they've never won a game against the Bolts.
They need to get that monkey off their backs this season.
The Chargers had an off year in 2011; now that they've lost Vincent Jackson in free agency, they may be weak this season as well. However, given their record against the Titans, it won't be easy either way.
If the Titans are going to win an early game, this one against San Diego may be their best chance.
3. Houston Texans (Weeks 4 and 13)
It doesn't matter whether a win comes on the road or at home, but the Titans must beat the Texans at least once.
Whether it's in Houston in Week 4 or Nashville in Week 13, the Titans cannot let the Texans run away with the division.
Upsets against division rivals seem to be much easier to pull off than upsets against teams outside the conference (they certainly seem to happen much more often in any sense).
The Texans are coming off of a season of unprecedented success, and Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub aren't getting any younger, so the Titans could get lucky and sneak in one win against the presumptive division champs.
4. @ Buffalo Bills (Week 7)
A lot of people are overlooking the Buffalo Bills, but they could be a tough team next season. They added a ton of talented defensive players in the offseason, and at the beginning of 2011, they looked like they had one of the better offenses in the NFL.
This is going to be a surprisingly close game against two pretty evenly-matched teams.
Super Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Stephon Gilmore and Nigel Bradham are all new residents of Buffalo, and if you don't think that that will make a huge impact on their defense, you need to rethink your position.
The Bills are certainly more beatable than a lot of the other teams on this list, but they'll also be a lot tougher than the Jaguars, Colts, Dolphins or Vikings. The Titans can't afford to underestimate them.
5. Both Games against the Colts or the Jaguars
To rack up 10 wins (what they'll need for the playoffs), the Titans will need to get victories against New England, Miami, Buffalo, New York, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Minnesota, San Diego and Houston.
That's nine wins. To get that extra W, they're going to have to sweep either the Colts or the Jaguars.
The Colts are a question mark. Here's a list of some of the players they've lost: Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, Pierre Garcon, Joseph Addai and Peyton Manning. They're also switching schemes.
They should be terrible, but Andrew Luck could come in and blow everyone away.
The Jags also look awful on paper. Their best player (Maurice Jones-Drew) is holding out, Blaine Gabbert is coming off of one of the worst rookie outings ever and first-round pick Justin Blackmon looks like a headache.
Either of them could be at the bottom of the barrel, but they might also be descent enough to go one-on-one with the Titans. The Titans need to take advantage of the easy games on their schedule and sweep one of their division rivals.