Tennessee Titans 2020 season preview: Another playoff berth may depend on improving pass rush

The Tennessee Titans are ranked No. 16 in ESPN's Football Power Index ahead of the 2020 NFL season. With no preseason games this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, Week 1 is the first time we'll see new acquisitions and rookies for every team. Week 1 will also give us the first NFL games since Super Bowl LIV in February.

Here's everything you need to know about the Titans heading into the season, from the big question to answer and the toughest stretch on their schedule to a bold prediction and potential breakout fantasy football stars.

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

The big question: Is Jadeveon Clowney enough to put the pass rush over the top?

Clowney gives coach Mike Vrabel a player who can be utilized anywhere along the defensive front seven. Tennessee needs Clowney's disruptive presence to create one-on-one matchups for players such as Harold Landry, Vic Beasley and Jeffery Simmons. The inability to consistently rush the passer came back to haunt the Titans last season. If Clowney doesn't make them better able to impact the quarterback, the Titans could end up at home again in January. -- Turron Davenport

How the pandemic has most affected the Titans

The pandemic has mostly impacted the Titans in their quest to replace retired defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Vrabel didn't name a new defensive coordinator and has said multiple times that outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen would be in charge when Vrabel is not in the defensive room. Bowen called plays in the past during stretches of preseason games and practices, but he lost valuable time on the field when things were shut down during the pandemic. With no preseason games this year, Bowen also lost out on the chance to have trial runs calling plays on game day. -- Davenport

Football Power Index projections for the Titans

Overall ranking: 16
Offensive ranking: 15
Defensive ranking: 19
Special teams ranking: 11

Total wins: 8.4
AFC South title chances: 35.8%
Chances to make playoffs: 54.3%
Super Bowl chances: 1.6%
2021 draft pick: No. 19

Inside the Titans' schedule

FPI's strength of schedule rank: 31

Toughest stretch: The toughest stretch for the Titans comes in November when they go on the road to face the Baltimore Ravens in between home and away games against the division rival Indianapolis Colts. As if division rivalry games aren't enough, the Ravens will be looking for revenge after a humiliating 28-12 home playoff loss to the Titans last season. These games undoubtedly will have playoff seeding ramifications because all three teams are postseason contenders. Facing Philip Rivers twice and Lamar Jackson won't be an easy task.

Over or under 8.4 wins? Over. After finishing 9-7 in their first two seasons under Vrabel, the Titans should easily surpass 8 wins in 2020. They'll need to come out of the gate smoking this year and improve upon their 2-2 records to start each of the past two seasons. The good thing for the Titans is they established a smashmouth, complementary style of play during their strong finish last season and 19 of 22 starters are returning to make another run. -- Davenport

Bold prediction for 2020: The Titans will finish with two 1,000-yard receivers

A second 1,000-yard season for A.J. Brown is a basic expectation after his strong rookie year when he posted 52 receptions for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns. The bold part of this prediction is a 1,000-yard receiving season from Corey Davis. A four-year, $118 million contract for Ryan Tannehill should lead to more passing plays this year. That means more opportunities for Brown and Davis, who Tannehill admitted he needs to find more. After dealing with turf toe and having an offseason procedure, Davis is focused on 2020. "I'm trying to do numbers this year," Davis said. -- Davenport

Breakout fantasy star: Jonnu Smith, TE

Smith has been living the shadow of Delanie Walker since he was drafted in the third round in 2017, but with the veteran no longer on the roster, Smith is officially the man at tight end in Tennessee. The Titans will need to expand Smith's role near the goal line (eight TDs, six end zone targets in three seasons), but he's well positioned to improve on his previous career-best fantasy finish (20th in 2019). -- Mike Clay

ADP for the top players:

The view from Vegas

Super Bowl odds: 30-1 (opened 30-1)
Over/under: 8.5
Playoff odds: Yes -140, No +120

The Titans went 9-7 last season, got the last playoff spot in the AFC, but then won two playoff games on the road before losing at Kansas City in the conference championship game. They were 80-1 shots to win the Super Bowl last preseason, so this is a big improvement. -- ESPN Chalk staff

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill as of Sept. 1.

Where the Titans landed in NFL Rank

  • No. 28: Derrick Henry

  • No. 77: Kevin Byard

  • No. 90: Ryan Tannehill

  • No. 97: A.J. Brown

Speed reads before Week 1