WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Man, that feeling when the Titans beat the Colts was just as sweet as I pictured it. Marcus Mariota was incredible, Derrick Henry looked fantastic, Eric Decker is starting to get comfortable, and the Titans are winning against divisional opponents. If Corey Davis is able to make a significant impact this season, it will be tough to stop this offense. However, before getting too ahead of myself, it’s time to focus on this Sunday’s matchup:
Reasons For Confidence: Turnovers, Delanie Walker, Pass Game
Turnovers: The Browns announced earlier this week that Deshone Kizer will start again on Sunday. Through 5 starts, Kizer has turned the ball over 10 times, and that number should increase on Sunday. Despite mixed feelings among the fanbase about Dick Lebeau, one irrefutable fact is his history of success against rookie quarterbacks. Yes, Deshaun Watson carved the defense up like a turkey on Thanksgiving, but I am willing to wager that, that game was an outlier. Watson is special, and that is a difficult offense to defend overall. However, Kizer fits the profile of most rookie quarterbacks Lebau’s defense has fooled over the years—turnover prone, inaccurate, inconsistent. As a result, I would not be surprised to see some confusion, which will lead to turnovers.
Delanie Walker: Browns fans, we know that feeling. This defense has some serious issues covering tight ends. They have allowed the most receptions to tight ends in the league, and only the Giants have given up more yards against tight ends this season. So, now is a great time to mention that Delanie Walker is one of the league’s best at the position. If you own him in fantasy, you know what to do.
Pass Game: The Browns are ranked 32nd overall in the league, in terms of pass defense DVOA. The fact that Gregg Williams is the defensive coordinator tells me that the unit likes to blitz, which plays into the Titans’ hands. The offensive line excels at keep Marcus’s jersey clean, and if they can consistently pick up the blitz, there will be big plays on Sunday through the air. The receivers and Marcus seem to be hitting their stride, and against Cleveland’s pass defense, I would expect their success to continue.
Reasons For Concern: Run defense, Run Game, Trap Game?
Run Defense: Often, when a team’s pass defense is at the bottom of the league, their run defense is disproportionately at the top, because opposing teams are too busy throwing the ball. However, I do honestly believe that Cleveland’s run defense is legitimately at the top of the league. They have some very talented players along their defense front, with names like Garrett, Shelton, and Ogbah anchoring them. The Titans have been able to run the ball at times, but have not been as consistently powerful as 2016. With Demarco Murray likely out on Sunday, it will be very interesting to see how productive the Titans are on the ground with only Derrick Henry running the show, against one of the better run defenses in the league.
Run Game: With Deshone Kizer coming off of the bench, I would not be surprised at all to see Hue Jackson keep things very safe on Sunday, which will mean a lot of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson on the ground. The Titans have struggled against running backs this year (shoutout to Chuck Pagano and co. for not giving Marlon Mack the ball more on Monday). If the Titans cannot stop the run on Sunday and the Browns’ are able to limit Kizer’s mistakes while consistently moving the ball, things could get slippery. Cleveland has a talented offensive line, and talented backs; it is up to this Titans’ defensive front to respond.
Trap Game? : We have talked before about how the Titans love to play to their opponents’ skill level, on both sides of the spectrum. Playing a season defining Monday night game against a team you haven’t beaten since 2011? Don’t worry, this team will show up. Small games against teams you should beat? It gets dicey. This is a road game, on a short week, after an emotional win, with the bye week starting the second the game ends. It has all of the ingredients of a trap game. Mike Mularkey needs to make sure this team is up. I have seen this team win against divisional opponents, and I have seen them beat Seattle. Now, it is time to see them handle their business and do what they’re supposed to do.
Something New: I have decided to stop making predictions, because to be completely honest, I am 100% biased. I believe that this team could plausibly beat any of the 31 other teams in the league. The Vikings are viewed as one of the league’s best teams. You’re telling me this team would not beat Case Keenum? It’s just not an exciting prediction if I pick the Titans every week. Instead, I will do quick positional advantages:
Quarterback: Titans. I should not have to expand on this one.
Running Back: Browns. Duke Johnson and Isiah Crowell are very talented, and with Demarco Murray likely out this Sunday, it makes this comparison 2 against 1.
Wide Receivers: Titans. Kenny Britt is Cleveland’s best receiver, and he has been showing less than 100% effort thus far. On the other side, Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, and Taywan Taylor seem to be improving weekly.
Tight Ends: Titans. There are few teams who have a tight end better than Delanie Walker. Jonnu Smith could be a factor on Sunday, as well.
Defense: Wash. The Titans and Browns both have struggling defenses, and are typically right next to each other when you look at stats-based rankings.
Coaching: Titans. Remember when we wanted the Titans to throw money at Hue? He’s won 1 game in Cleveland thus far.