The stars are aligning for the Tennessee Titans to succeed in 2017.
Time is flying and an uneventful dead period over the last two months is winding down to a joyous close. Tennessee Titans training camp is five days away, their first preseason game is 20 days away and the first regular season Titans game against the Oakland Raiders is 49 days away.
The aura around the Titans going into 2017 is a very positive one, with fans and media alike jumping on the Titans’ bandwagon. The Titans have made some shrewd moves over the last two offseasons to take this roster from talent-barren to supremely solid, with an eye on both the present and future.
With many believing that 2017 is the year the Titans return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, finding a way to the division crown first comes by looking at the season’s schedule. While pre-season schedule-watching could very well be futile, considering the turnover of playoff teams from year to year in the NFL, it’s important to know who the Titans will go up against.
There are two avenues to deciphering the Titans’ schedule: traditional strength of schedule and advanced metrics.
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The Titans’ opponents in 2017 combined for a 112.5-143.5 record last season, good for a .439 winning percentage. That percentage gives the Titans the third-easiest (or tied for second-easiest) schedule in the NFL heading into this season. Like I said before, this doesn’t mean that their opponents this season will combine for that poor of a record again, but it increasingly possible. Three of the Titans’ opponents, the Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos are due for some serious negative regression in terms of wins, while the Jacksonville Jaguars seem like the only team on the schedule due for a positive one.
If you don’t put trust in an opponent’s wins and losses being a good barometer, then we can bring in some analytics to see that the Titans appear to have an easy path to the playoffs in 2017. NumberFire is one of the best metrics/analytics sites out there, and their NEP (net expected points) and nERD (numberFire Efficiency Rating Derivative) statistics are usually spot on. Both statistics place the Titans with the third-easiest schedule due to poor 2017 projections for most of their opponents.
If you just glance at the Titans’ schedule, you’ll see that it is generous in comparison to other teams’ 2017 journeys. They play the Jaguars twice (yes, I remember Week 16), the LA Rams, the San Francisco 49ers, the Cleveland Browns and some teams destined for negative regression. The playoffs aren’t made in July, but there’s reason for optimism before the players even take the field.