NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Three primetime games, including two on Monday Night Football.
A trip to London.
Thursday Night Football at Nissan Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The home opener against the Houston Texans, following the season opener in Miami.
It’s all part of the 2018 schedule for the Tennessee Titans.
“The message to the players right now is: There’s going to be some excitement obviously with the schedule, with the release,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “I think it will be like a lot of things we talk about, getting off to a good start will always be important.
“Primetime games are important. I think it’s great to play on Monday night … and we’ll get to have our fans here on a Thursday night to help us on a short week.”
The team’s schedule was released on Thursday. Here’s a look at each game, and why to watch:
Date: Sunday, September 9 – Noon. (FOX)
Opponent: at Miami Dolphins
Why to watch: Well, it’s the regular season opener for the Titans under new head coach Mike Vrabel. What will things look like under new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and defensive coordinator Dean Pees? Sure, the preseason provides some clues, but this is the real deal. Right out of the gate the Titans can erase the memory of last year’s performance in South Florida. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will be at the helm this time against a Dolphins team that’s made a lot of changes this offseason. Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh is gone, and veteran running back Frank Gore is on board in Miami. So is receiver Danny Amendola, Tom Brady’s good friend for so many years with the Patriots. A healed-up Ryan Tannehill figures to be the one throwing the passes for Miami in this one.
Date: Sunday, September 16 – Noon. (CBS)
Opponent: Houston Texans
Why to watch: It’s the home opener for the Titans, and a chance to pick up where they left off against the AFC South a year ago. The Titans split with the Texans in 2017, and it was part of a 5-1 mark vs division opponents. The Titans didn’t see Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in the late-season game at Nissan Stadium last year. Watson has been recovering from a knee injury he suffered last fall, so this will be game No. 2 for him following the injury. Vrabel knows the Texans well – he was the team’s defensive coordinator last season.
Date: Sunday, September 23 -- Noon. (CBS)
Opponent: at Jacksonville Jaguars
Why to watch: The Titans swept the Jaguars in 2017, winning the two games by a combined score of 52-26. The Titans won 37-16 in Jacksonville in Week 2 a year ago. There’s no doubt there’s some bad blood brewing between these AFC South rivals. If you didn’t catch what Jaguars defensive lineman Marcell Dareus said after Jacksonville’s Dec. 31 loss to the Titans, well, here it is: "When we suit up next year, they better be ready because they already know what kind of ass-whooping I’ll hand out to them,” Dareus said of the Titans. “Dang, I wish we could have played them (in the playoffs). That would have been an easy win next week, oh my goodness.” Enough said on this one.
Date: Sunday, September 30 -- Noon. (FOX)
Opponent: Philadelphia Eagles
Why to watch: The defending Super Bowl champs will bring their act to Nashville on the final Sunday of September. Will their magic from 2017 continue as quarterback Carson Wentz takes over the reins again after his injury? The bet here is yes. Philly’s win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl was no fluke. The Eagles will once again be a team to be reckoned with this fall. It’s the final game of the first quarter of the season for the Titans, and it should be a good one.
Date: Sunday, October 7 -- Noon. (CBS)
Opponent: at Buffalo Bills
Why to watch: It’s better to travel to Buffalo in October than December, right? The Bills were one of the NFL’s surprise teams in 2017, as they advanced to the playoffs with a 9-7 record. The Bills acquired quarterback AJ McCarron this offseason, and the team returns Nathan Peterman. But the Bills are expected to address the position even further in the NFL Draft. The Titans have won three straight games in Orchard Park. Can they make it four?
Date: Sunday, October 14 – 3:25 p.m. (CBS).
Opponent: Baltimore Ravens
Why to watch: The Titans-Ravens rivalry always seems to produce memorable games. A year ago the Titans beat the Ravens 23-20 at Nissan Stadium in a game that went down to the wire. It’s a loss that kept Baltimore out of the playoffs. The Ravens added to their receiving corps with the addition of Michael Crabtree this offseason, and his presence should help quarterback Joe Flacco. New Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees knows a few things about the Ravens, his former employer.
Date: Sunday, October 21 -- 8:30 a.m. CT. (CBS)
Opponent: Los Angeles Chargers (in London)
Why to watch: Some fans will have to set their alarm clocks for this one, but it’s one to get up early for if you can’t make the trip. The Titans were initially scheduled to play the Chargers in L.A., so this one ends up being a road trip for both teams. It will be the first regular season game in the “Titans era” at an overseas stadium, and it should be an event. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers can still sling it around, so the Titans will need to be ready on defense. It will be interesting to see how many Titans fans represent at Wembley Stadium. I get the feeling it will be an impressive turnout.
Date: Monday, November 5 -- 7:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Opponent: at Dallas Cowboys
Why to watch: Heck, it’s the Cowboys, it’s on Monday Night Football, and the Titans haven’t played at Jerry’s World since 2010. This will be the nation’s first chance to see the 2018 version of the Titans, and it comes at the season’s midway point. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott has lost weight, and he’ll be aiming to jumpstart the Cowboys alongside running back Ezekiel Elliott. Dez Bryant is no longer a part of the equation in Dallas, but tight end Jason Witten continues to play at a high level. * *
Date: Sunday, November 11 – Noon*. (CBS)
Opponent: New England Patriots
Why to watch: Tom Brady. Bill Belichick. Need I say more? Talk about a measuring stick game. The Patriots knocked the Titans out of the playoffs last season, so this game will provide a chance to get some payback in the regular season. The Patriots are regularly the team to beat in the AFC, if not the NFL. Former Patriots like Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis and Logan Ryan will square off against their old team. Vrabel, who won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, will be a part of the storyline this week as well.
Date: Sunday, November 18 – Noon*. (CBS)
Opponent: at Indianapolis Colts
Why to watch: The Titans swept the Colts in 2017, but had to come from behind in both contests. The Colts should be much improved with quarterback Andrew Luck expected back behind center after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury. The Titans will be coming off a rugged stretch of games, and they’d like to keep the success going against their division rivals.
Date: Monday, November 26 – 7:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Opponent: at Houston Texans
Why to watch: Monday Night Football in Houston. The joint should be jacked up, and the Titans will have a reason to show out. Yes, it was a season ago, and Vrabel wasn’t even the head coach. But the memory of last year’s visit to Houston remains a sore subject for anyone who played in that contest. The Titans lost 57-14, of course, as Watson went off, and Mariota went down with an injury. What a good opportunity to erase that memory.
Date: Sunday, December 2 – 3:05 p.m*. (CBS)
Opponent: New York Jets
Why to watch: Teddy Bridgewater joined the quarterback mix in New York this offseason alongside Josh McCown, but another QB could join the group via the NFL Draft. So right now, it’s way too early to know who will be behind center for the Jets in this one. But at the start of December, the Titans will be looking to finish the season on a roll. The Jets finished 5-11 in 2017, so they’re looking for a bounce back season. Former Titans linebacker Avery Williamson, a Milan, Tenn. native, will make his return to Nissan Stadium after signing with the Jets during the offseason.
Date: Thursday, December 6 – 7:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN).
Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars
Why to watch: It’s become a tradition -- another Thursday night matchup against the Jaguars. Wouldn’t it be a great time to break out the Color Rush uniforms? No matter what uniforms the teams wear, this could be serious business at the start of the season’s fourth quarter. The Titans and Jaguars played a hotly-contested game at Nissan Stadium last December (which sparked the comments from Dareus), and they’d love to see this one mean a lot again this fall.
Date: Sunday, December 16 – Noon*. (CBS).
Opponent: at New York Giants
Why to watch: Christmas time in the Big Apple. Sounds like a great road trip for Titans fans. There’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Giants in the NFL Draft. Will the team take a quarterback? Will Eli Manning be behind center in this one? One thing’s for sure: the Giants will look different under a new head coach in Pat Shurmer. This game could be a critical one for the Titans in the middle of December.
Date: Sunday, December 22 or 23 – TBA. (TBA)
Opponent: Washington Redskins
Why to watch: The Kirk Cousins show is over in the nation’s capital. Former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, acquired in an offseason trade, is now the man for the Redskins. Washington finished 7-9 a year ago, and they’ll be looking to make a jump in the competitive NFC East. The exact date and start time for this one will be announced no later than following Week 8. The NFL will pick two games for the Saturday schedule, and the rest will be played on Sunday. New Titans linebacker Will Compton will face his old team in this one.
Date: Sunday, December 30 – Noon*. (CBS)
Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
Why to watch: Every Titans fan remembers what happened on the final Sunday of the 2017 regular season – the Titans clinched a playoff berth before a raucous crowd at Nissan Stadium. Well, on the final Sunday of the 2018 season the Titans will play at home again versus another division rival. In a perfect world, the Titans won’t be needing a win in the final week to reach the postseason. But there’s at least potential for this to be another big one.
And here’s the preseason schedule, with dates and times now confirmed…
PRESEASON GAME* 1*
Date: Thursday, August 9 – 7 p.m. (WKRN)
Opponent: at Green Bay Packers
Why to watch: It will be the first chance to see the new-look Titans – new head coach, new players, new uniforms – on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Ok, so the field won’t be frozen (at least it better not be in August), but this will be the preseason debut of the 2018 Titans under Vrabel, in their new digs. The team’s work during training camp will be put on display against the Packers. How much will the team reveal in Week One of the preseason? Well, it’s a reason to tune in.
PRESEASON GAME 2
Date: Saturday, August 18 – 7 p.m. (WKRN)
Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Why to watch: Marcus Mariota vs. Jameis Winston. Need I say more? The quarterbacks first squared off in Week One of the 2015 season, when Mariota put on a show while throwing for 209 yards and four touchdowns, with a 158.3 rating. Of course, this won’t all be about the quarterbacks. In the preseason home opener, the Titans should play their starters more than they did in Green Bay, and it will be Vrabel’s first home contest. But it won’t just be the game this week. The two teams will practice together that week in Nashville leading up to the game. (More info on that in the coming months).
PRESEASON GAME 3
Date: Saturday, August 25 – 3 p.m. (WKRN)
Opponent: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Why to watch: Talk about a good measuring stick game. The third preseason game is usually the dress rehearsal for NFL teams. It’s when starters usually see the most action of the preseason. The Steelers won the AFC North last season, and they beat the Titans in primetime in 2017. Teams don’t get revenge in preseason games, but the Titans will have an opportunity to see how they match up against one of the best teams in the AFC.
PRESEASON GAME 4
Date: Thursday, August 30 – 7 p.m. (WKRN)
Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
Why to watch: The Vikings won the NFC North in 2017, and they were one win from reaching the Super Bowl. It’s too early to know what Vrabel’s philosophy will be for the fourth preseason game, so we don’t know how much the starters will play. What we do know is this will be the team’s final test of the preseason, and it will be the final game for a bunch of Titans before roster cuts. And heck, what else would you be doing on the last Thursday night in August?
The Titans unveiled their new uniforms Wednesday night in downtown Nashville. (Photos: Donn Jones, Kayla Schoen)