My 2020 Titans Predictions
According to ESPN’s strength of schedule index, the Titans have the 20th most difficult schedule in the NFL. Despite four 9-7 seasons in a row, the Titans made the AFC Championship in 2019 and look to follow up with a similar run in 2020.
The Titans 2019 season ended 220 days ago and since then, they have made few additions to the team. The 2019 team, who made the AFC Championship, lost Jack Conklin, Marcus Mariota, and Logan Ryan to free agency. Additionally, they traded long-time Titan, Jurrell Casey to the Broncos. While the team looks a bit different, the core that lead them to the AFC Championship is still around and the Titans are poised for another winning season.
During the offseason, the Titans made few free agent signings, showing their trust in the current players. Jadeveon Clowney is still a free agent and he would solve a serious problem on the Titans. Pass rush. The Titans additions to the team include Vic Beasly through free agency (he did not show up to camp at first then failed his physical), and Isaiah Wilson, Kristian Fulton, and Darrynton Evans through the draft.
To further analyze the Titans 2020 schedule, let's look at the quality of the Quarterbacks they will be facing. Mike Sando of The Athletic, asked 50 anonymous NFL coaches and evaluators to rank each starting quarterbacks into one of five tiers. The tiers ranked the Quarterbacks from worst to best with the 5th being the worst.
Ryan Tannehill was ranked in the 3rd tier. He received 10 tier 2 votes, 38 tier 3 votes, and 2 tier 4 votes.
The Titans strength of schedule was ranked the 16th most challenging which is the middle of the league. The Titans will face a 1st tier Quarterback 3 times, playing Deshaun Watson twice and Aaron Rodgers once. The Titans will also face four tier 2 Quarterbacks, playing Ben Roethlisberger, Lamar Jackson, Philip Rivers twice, and Matthew Stafford. They will play four tier 3 Quarterbacks, Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Joe Burrow. Finally, they will face three tier 4 Quarterbacks, Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky, Gardner Minshew twice, and Drew Lock.
Interestingly, the Titans finishing 2nd and the Texans finishing 1st in the AFC South last season affects the scheduling. The Titans will face the Broncos in Week 1 while the Texans will face the Chiefs as a result.
The Titans strength of schedule, no matter the metric, is about average. Below is my record prediction for the Titans in 2020:
Week 1: Titans @ Broncos W
Week 2: Titans vs Jaguars W
Week 3: Titans @ Vikings W
Week 4: Titans @ Steelers L
Week 5: Titans vs Bills W
Week 6: Titans @ Texans L
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Titans vs Bengals W
Week 9: Titans vs Bears W
Week 10: Titans vs Colts W
Week 11: Titans @ Ravens L
Week 12: Titans @ Colts L
Week 13: Titans vs Browns W
Week 14: Titans @ Jaguars W
Week 15: Titans vs Lions W
Week 16: Titans @ Packers L
Week 17: Titans @ Texans L
Final record: 10-6
I think 10-6 is a fair record though the Titans often lose games you believe they should win and win games you would expect them to lose. A 9-7 finish would also be likely though I think 10-6 is the most fair as the team is similar to last year, which will help greatly after an unprecedented offseason.
If we take a look at my Titans predictions from last season they were a bit mixed. I predicted a 10-6 season and a playoff berth.
The prediction I was most confident in, which so many people doubted, was that Derrick Henry will lead the AFC in rushing. Not only was this true, but he led the entire NFL in rushing. As far as my other predictions, I mentioned that the Titans could have a breakout season and make noise in the playoffs, as they did.
Another prediction was the Titans having one of the best linebacking corps in the league, which was not the truth, as Pro Football Focus ranked the Titans Linebackers as the 15th best in the league. I still think that the Titans Linebackers have an incredible amount of potential.
My 2020 Titans Predictions:
Derrick Henry will lead the AFC in rushing again
Despite his incredible finish to the 2018 season, strong 2019 season, and incredibly playoff run, Derrick Henry is still doubted by many. Last season, the question of “Will Henry play like he did in the final four games of 2018?” was answered. The Titans will continue feeding Henry the ball in 2020 and as the pass game continues to improve, so will Henry. Over the offseason, the Titans were able to sign Henry to a 4 year extension and that was an amazing choice. Henry is among the most valuable players in the NFL to his team and he will continue playing at an extremely high level in 2020.
2. A.J. Brown will have another 1,000 yard season, which will help Corey Davis
2019 Rookie of the year snub, A.J. Brown had one of the best rookie seasons at Receiver in Titans history. He was extremely efficient, made huge plays, and was amazing after the catch. Brown did everything that was expected by Corey Davis when he was drafted 5th overall in 2017. I still truly believe Corey Davis has a great amount of potential. Davis is strong and has great hands and began to build chemistry with Marcus Mariota before Ryan Tannehill took over at Quarterback. Brown will draw the top Cornerback from each team, allowing Davis to get more targets. One of Davis’ best moments came in 2018 against the best cornerback in the NFL, Stephon Gilmroe, where Davis had 125 yards and a touchdown. I also think the improvement at receiver will allow more targets for Adam Humphries and Jonnu Smith.
3. Rashaan Evans, Adoree Jackson, Jeffery Simmons, and Jonnu Smith will breakout
Rashaan Evans was one of the Titans best players in 2019 and received minimal recognition. Evans was extremely good in the run game and made some incredible plays such as this one against the Patriots in the playoffs. Adoree Jackson had a good 2019 season but was not as consistent as he would have liked. Jackson has extreme athleticism and has improving coverage ability. It is great to have someone like Jackson as he can cover a speedy receiver like Tyreek Hill or a slightly bigger receiver like DeAndre Hopkins.
Click here to read about the 3 Titans players who could breakout this season. Here, I wrote about Rashaan Evans, Jonnu Smith, and Jeffrey Simmons in depth and why they can breakout in 2020.
While there are some questions heading into the 2020 season about the Titans and about the league as a whole, The Titans are in a better position than they were in at this time last season. The Titans have solidified the Quarterback position and continued to improve on offense as the season progressed. Some of my biggest concerns include the loss of Dean Peas, the lack of veterans, and whether Ryan Tannehill can follow up last season with a similar performance in 2020.
The Titans have a tremendous amount of potential and they will not have a "one and done" season as the 2017 Jaguars and 2018 Bears had.