An offseason of whirlwind movement around the NFL has left the Tennessee Titans as the forgotten contender in the suddenly loaded AFC.
The Titans are on a streak of six straight winning seasons, posted a 23-10 record over the past two years and reached the AFC Championship Game in 2019. They were the top seed in the conference last year but lost to the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round.
Even though Tennessee returns most of its key contributors from last season's team, led by running back Derrick Henry, linebacker Harold Landry III and defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, it hasn't been the focus of much hype heading into 2022.
Much of that is because other AFC teams made splashier moves, but the Titans made a couple of nice under-the-radar moves in their own right, including a trade for wideout Robert Woods and signing tight end Austin Hooper in free agency.
Both moves should help quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who endured an up-and-down 2021 campaign, following the departure of top target A.J. Brown, who was dealt to the Philadelphia Eagles. They also added Arkansas wideout Treylon Burks in the first round of the draft.
It may take some time to see where Tennessee fits within the conference's hierarchy given the incredible amount of QB talent, but it can't be ruled out as a possible Super Bowl threat.
Let's check out the road the Titans must navigate to make that goal reality following the NFL's schedule release Thursday.
2022 Tennessee Titans Schedule
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Full television schedule can be found on the team's official website.
The Titans schedule is a bit of a mixed bag. There are a handful of highly winnable games, including home dates against the Houston Texans and New York Giants, but for the most part they're dealing with the same issue as the rest of the AFC: a demanding slate from start to finish.
That doesn't mean Tennessee doesn't have a chance to repeat as the conference's top seed, though.
A key reason the Titans finished 12-5 last year was a midseason six-game winning streak that featured wins over two key AFC rivals, the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs, and the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
So their schedule last season wasn't a walk in the park either, though it did get more favorable down the stretch, which won't necessarily be the case in 2022.
The good news for Tennessee is its ability to win in multiple ways. It has the league's best running back in Henry, the passing game should be solid with the additions of Woods, Burks and Hooper, and the team ranked sixth in scoring defense last season.
That should give the Titans more margin for error as they seek another double-digit win campaign.
The Titans' path of least resistance toward a playoff spot is taking care of business in the AFC South, a division they've won each of the past two years.
They were the overwhelming favorite for a portion of the offseason, but the Colts' trade for longtime Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan created some serious competition. It's also possible the Jacksonville Jaguars take a step forward in Trevor Lawrence's second season.
Yet, Tennessee is still the team to beat. Going 4-2 or better in AFC South games would not only put the team on a path toward another division crown, but it would go a long way to help it keep pace with the Bills, Bengals, Chiefs and other clubs seeking the No. 1 seed.
Beyond the division clashes, the most intriguing games are a trio of road trips to face three of the NFL's Super Bowl hopefuls Buffalo, Kansas City and the Green Bay Packers.
One thing's for sure: If the Titans live up to expectations and reach the playoffs, they'll be battle-tested and ready to overcome last year's postseason disappointment.