Looks like it'll be a gorgeous day for football when the Tennessee Titans open the 2021 season — one of the most anticipated for the Two-Toners in years — Sunday, with mid-80s and clear skies at kickoff and a delightfully moderate humidity expected.
But here's where perception plays a role: Relative humidity in the mid-40s (and a dew point in the upper 50s) is a real treat in Middle Tennessee in early September, but for folks from, say, I dunno, Phoenix — where the humidity hangs out in the 20s — it'll seem downright muggy.
Similarly, down in the desert, a 10-win season and a playoff berth in quarterback Kyler Murray's third season under center would get the fans reasonably enthusiastic. But in Nashville, the same result for Tennessee would feel a little ho-hum. Even with two new coordinators and the departure of a handful of offensive weapons, the Titans have to expect another AFC South title and, perhaps, a deep run in the playoffs.
The big news in the offseason was, of course, the acquisition of kicker Sam Ficken who will hopefully improve on the combined 14 percent (estimated) accuracy of the 23 kickers (estimated) the Titans used last season. Just behind that in the water-cooler rankings was the trade that brought in no-doubt future Hall of Famer Julio Jones to partner with A.J. Brown in the catching-the-ball-from-Ryan Tannehill department. That adds a wrinkle to an offense that was already difficult to prepare for, what with thirsty workout video legend and anthropomorphic A-10 Warthog Derrick Henry looking for a third straight rushing title.
Perhaps the biggest concern, at least early on, is how much chemistry Tannehill and Jones were able to develop, given that The Iceman missed some camp time due to COVID protocol (as did walking Jagerbomb and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel).
The defense looked light-years better in three preseason games than it did any time last season, though of course any excitement should be tempered by the fact that it didn't face too many first-stringers in the exhibition games. Nevertheless, the veterans joining the defensive backfield, the incredible improvement of Teair Tart and others and the addition of Bud Dupree to the pass rush that already includes El Jefe Grande Jeffrey Simmons do give legitimate hope that things will be better on that side of the ball. It helps that it would be hard for the unit to be much worse than last year.
The Cards are coming off a parity perfect 8-8 season, which featured a late-season collapse after a 6-3 start. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald left after 17 years, but the Cards added A.J. Green as a veteran pass-catcher. Also new to the team: J.J. Watt. The former Texan is always dangerous when rushing the quarterback or when he sees a TV camera. Keep on eye on 99 (which won't be hard because he'll make sure he's on screen plenty).
It's a noon kick at Nissan Stadium, broadcast on CBS with (*squints*) Tom McCarthy (?) on play-by-play and (*squints*) Aaron Taylor (monocle man emoji) doing analysis. In case you were wondering, this is CBS' G-team. New Nashvillian Jim Nantz and human rainbow Tony Romo are calling Browns and Chiefs in the late game. Honorary Nashvillian Ian Eagle joins VFL Charles Davis for the Steelers-Bills nooner. Even Jacksonville and Houston got Greg "No I'm the Fun Brother" Gumbel and Adam Archuleta. McCarthy and Taylor are lower on the pecking order than even that one guy who most people know for curling commentary and that other guy whose name sounds like something on a menu at Greek restaurant.
But if things go as expected this season, CBS will notice (I promise), and Nantz will have a short commute.