Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 4/19/13
The writing teams at Fox Sports South, FS Tennessee and FS Carolinas have collaborated on an extensive package of NFL schedule breakdowns for the 2013 season, specifically featuring the Falcons, Panthers and Titans. FALCONS TITANS PANTHERS --- The who, what and where for the Titans' upcoming season has long been determined. That came soon after the close of the disappointing 2012 season. As this year, the Titans learned the when part of the equation Thursday night, along with the remainder of league teams, as the NFL released the schedules for all 32 teams. As for the why, let's just say Titans owner Bud Adams has put head coach Mike Munchak, general manager Ruston Webster, the players and staff on stern notice that anything resembling last season's 6-10 step backward is unacceptable. Here are a few likes, dislikes and general comments about the Titans' upcoming slate: What To Like 1. It's a matter of early survival If Tennessee can endure road trips to Pittsburgh and Houston for Weeks 1 and 2, the schedule loosens up a bit with three straight home games. And come November, the Titans finish with five of their final eight contests at LP Field. "The schedule this season has an interesting structure, Munchak said. "Two games on the road is a tough way to open for us and our fans, but that is balanced out with three in a row at home." 2. Hello, old friend The Titans and Steelers play for the sixth straight season. The opener on Sept. 8 marks the third time the team has opened in Pittsburgh the past nine years, including 2009 and 2005. But it runs much deeper between the franchises. Long rivals as the then-Oilers (now Titans) in the former AFC Central Division, the teams have played several notable games, including consecutive AFC Championship Game in 1978-79 that the Steelers both won. "Opening in Pittsburgh is a special atmosphere and obviously a very familiar rival through the years," said Munchak, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman who played 12 seasons for the Oilers. 3. Prime-time fun The Titans play only one prime-time game, but it's at home on Thursday, Nov. 14 against division rival Indianapolis. The Colts made the playoffs last year in quarterback Andrew Luck's debut season, so they figure to be even better this season. "I am happy that we received a home prime-time game to showcase our team, our city and our fans to a national audience," Munchak said. 4. Peyton's Place Before future hall-of-fame quarterback Peyton Manning signed with Denver last year, the Titans well, lets make that Adams dangled 24 million or so a year to lure the former University of Tennessee quarterback to Nashville. Unhappy with the pace andor effort in the negotiations was a determining factor in team president Mike Reinfeldt being fired following last season. Its always a game of heightened local interest when the Titans face Manning, a local favorite from his playing days at the University of Tennessee and even for the Colts from 1998-2010. 5. Gone streaking For the first time since 1981, which so happens to be the year before Munchak's rookie season with the team, the TitansOilers schedule includes three straight home games and three straight road games in the same season. The good part of that is the three consecutive home games San Diego on Sept. 22, New York Jets on Sept. 29 and Kansas City on Oct. 6 come after the first two games on the road and well ahead of the three-straight road games in December. What To Loathe 1. Peyton's Place II Manning had many field days marching through the Titans' defense during his stint with the Colts. He caused division rivals to draft defensively, in an attempt to slow the Colts down twice a season. Always a favorite son in Tennessee, Manning has stayed closely aligned with his alma mater. There are plenty of Volunteers fans who became Colts fans, because of Manning, and wanted to see him wearing a Titans uniform. Manning will take extra notice in preparing to play this one in Denver on Dec. 8. 2. Road worriers The opening road trip aside, a quick perusal of the back end finds the Titans traveling four times in five games. The road run starts with three straight visits to Oakland (Nov. 24), Indianapolis (Dec. 1), Denver (Dec. 8), before final trip to Jacksonville for Week 16 (Dec. 22). The lone home game during that stretch: Arizona on Dec. 15. 3. Renewing old acquaintances Current Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was very popular during his stint as Titans head coach (1995-2011). He led the franchise to its only Super Bowl berth a heartbreaking loss to the Rams to cap the 1999 season. It was also Tennessee's first season playing in the downtown Nashville stadium. While the lack of postseason results waned in his final few seasons, Fisher remains a fixture in Nashville, where he still maintains a home. It might be too strong to say his departure from the franchise was acrimonious, but you won't find Fisher and Adams hanging out before or after the game. 4. Goin' South Of Tennessee's seven 2013 opponents to make the playoffs last season, four hail from the AFC South (Houston and Indy twice). After unseating the Colts atop the division, the Texans have won it two years in a row and figure to be Super Bowl contenders once more. Last season, the Titans went 0-4 against the Colts and Texans. 5. Super calling For the fifth straight year, the Titans play a Super Bowl participant from the previous season. Defending NFC champion San Francisco will visit Nashville on Oct. 20. As an aside, the Titans will play five games in the 4 p.m. EST3 p.m. CST Sunday time slot this fall. The 49ers feature second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took over the reins for injured Alex Smith (now with Kansas City) at midseason, before leading the Niners' Super Bowl charger. Defensively, the 49ers feature one of the best units the Titans will play, led by the high-end linebacking quartet of Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith, one of the NFL's most prolific pass rushers. Off-The-Cuff Prediction If the Titans can split the first two games on the road and then take at least two of the next three games at home, then they have a fighting chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. With the Titans going all in with a hyper-active free agency period and looking to bolster the roster with next weeks NFL Draft, the time has come for Munchak to deliver a team that, at the least, shows marked improvement, if not the playoffs. The Titans should be closer to the competitive 9-7 record in Munchak's first season as head coach two years ago than the 6-10 mess of last season. Much of that will be on the shoulders of third-year quarterback Jake Locker, whose time has come to be an every-game productive quarterback. Record: 8-8
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