The Tennessee Titans will open their season on Sunday afternoon when they take on the New Orleans Saints at the Caesars Superdome, with kickoff set for noon CT.
The Titans are coming off a disappointing season that saw them finish 7-10 and miss the playoffs for the first time in three years after losing their last seven contests.
An offer for Titans fans
However, it’s worth noting that the team was ravaged by injuries, including to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Despite all that, Tennessee still had a chance to make the playoffs with a Week 18 win but were unable to get the job done with Josh Dobbs under center.
The Saints also finished with a 7-10 mark and missed the playoffs. Like the Titans, their biggest issue was on the offensive side of the ball, and more specifically at the quarterback position, which saw inconsistent-at-best performances throughout the season.
With the season-opener just days away, here’s a look at seven things to know.
Saints are favored
According to BetMGM, the Saints are three-point favorites over the Titans ahead of Week 1, with the over/under set at 41.5. The line has remained the same since we first checked in on it at the beginning of the week.
Titans' all-time record vs. Saints
This will be the 17th meeting all time between the Titans and Saints, with Tennessee holding the edge in the previous 16 meetings, sporting a 9-6-1 record.
Tennessee and New Orleans have split the last two contests, with the Saints winning 38-28 in 2019 and the Titans winning 23-21 in 2021.
Titans' record vs. NFC in the Vrabel era
Since head coach Mike Vrabel took over in 2018, the Titans have a 15-7 record over NFC foes, according to Tom Brew of All Titans. That .682 winning percentage in interconference games ranks fourth in that span.
Two key suspensions
Both the Titans and Saints have a starter suspended for this game.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara will miss the first three games of the 2023 season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, while Titans right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere is suspended six games for violating the NFL’s gambling policy.
The Saints will try to fill the void left by Kamara’s suspension with veteran running back Jamaal Williams, and the Titans will deploy veteran Chris Hubbard in Petit-Frere’s place.
A big change in The Big Easy
The Saints brought in veteran quarterback Derek Carr to take the reins under center in 2023, and while Carr has no shortage of detractors, nobody can argue he isn’t a sizeable upgrade over Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston.
The big question is, can Carr get off to a fast start with his new team?
Offenses with a new quarterback at the helm often need time to get situated, and making things more difficult is the fact that Tennessee sports a talented defense that will make the acclimation process more difficult.
Old guard, new guard pass-catchers
This game will feature two of the more talented receivers of years past in Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins. On the flip side, we’ll also get a look at up-and-coming pass-catchers like wide receivers Chris Olave and Treylon Burks, and tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo.
Thomas is once again attempting to return after three injury-plagued seasons in a row. Before that, he was arguably the best receiver in the NFL following four-straight seasons of at least 1,100 yards, including a 2019 campaign that saw him break the NFL single-season record for most receptions with 149 while also tallying a league-high 1,725 yards.
Entering his 11th season, Hopkins has been one of the league’s best for a decade now. Nuk has tallied six 1,000-yard seasons over his career despite not having a who’s who of quarterbacks throwing to him. Some are ready to write him off, but Hopkins was as good as ever in 2022, totaling 717 yards over nine games, an average that would have amounted to 1,354 yards had the veteran played an entire season (he was suspended six games and sat out the last two).
Olave more than put himself on the map as one of the best young receivers in the NFL in his first season, finishing with 1,042 yards, which ranked second among rookie receivers. Even with the return of Thomas, Olave is the Saints’ best receiver, barring the veteran showing he’s back to his elite form.
Burks was plagued by injury during his rookie campaign but showed plenty of promise when he was on the field. The addition of Hopkins takes pressure off him and should help open things up, which is why many are projecting a breakout year for Burks.
Okonkwo was an absolute beast in Year 1 and not only did he lead all rookie tight ends in receiving yards, he also finished third in yards per route run among all pass-catchers, regardless of experience or position.
A potential low-scoring affair
Don’t be surprised if this is a low-scoring affair, as the Saints have a new quarterback under center going up against a stout Titans defense, and the Titans have a new-look offensive line that might have issues early on.
The Titans sport one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL led by Jeffery Simmons, who had two sacks in the last meeting with the Saints. And, the unit is set to welcome back their 2021 sacks leader, Harold Landry, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.
Even with injuries upfront, Tennessee still managed to post the league’s best run defense and that doesn’t figure to change with the vast majority of the defensive front returning in 2023.
Tennessee was putrid in pass defense, but injuries were largely to blame for that showing. Things figure to be much improved on the back end as long as Kristian Fulton and Co. stay healthy and the pass-rush does its thing.
The Saints were a top-10 scoring defense last season and finished top five in sacks, but they also lost two of their top-five leaders in sacks. Even still, the Saints have more than enough to give Tennessee’s revamped offensive line fits in its first outing.
The biggest concern for the Saints is their run defense, which finished bottom 10 in 2022 and now has to overcome the loss of some key interior players. This game sets up well for Derrick Henry, but that will depend on how Tennessee’s new offensive line shows out.