NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Browns on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Here’s a look at six things to watch in the contest:
A Steady Tannehill
How about this for a bounce-back performance?: Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill posted an 83.3 completion percentage, averaging 10.3 yards per attempt and a 123.3 rating in Week 2 after posting a 47.1 completion percentage, a 5.8 pass yards per attempts average and a 28.8 passer rating in Week 1. The Titans will need a steady Tannehill against a good Browns defense on Sunday. The Titans are 25-4 in games Tannehill has had a 100-plus passer rating since he joined the team in 2019, and 12-16 in games he has had a passer rating below 100.
Protect the QB
One of the biggest keys to Tannehill’s success figures to hinge on the team’s ability to protect him, because this Browns defense is stout. Defensive end Myles Garrett has recorded four sacks in three career games vs the Titans, and he has at least one sack in all three games. The Titans, meanwhile, have allowed eight quarterback sacks in two games this season. The unit will once again be without starting guard Peter Skoronski, which has Dillon Radunz in a position to step in. But the challenges are across the board up front for Tennessee.
The Titans have a good thing going at running back, where rookie Tyjae Spears has added a spark alongside Derrick Henry. To keep the Browns on their heels a bit, the Titans are going to need to run the ball well on Sunday, but it won’t be easy – the Browns are allowing just 75.0 rushing yards per game, and just 3.75 yards per attempt. Overall, the Browns are ranked 1st in the league in total defense, allowing just 142.0 yards per game. Henry had 159 scrimmage yards (84 rush, 75 receiving) with two touchdowns in the last meeting in Cleveland.
Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons has been preaching it all week – get to Deshaun Watson, and look to create some turnovers in the process. The Browns quarterback is elusive, and he does a great job of maneuvering his way through traffic to keep plays alive. And there’s this: Watson, formerly with the Texans, has thrown 17 pass TDs in six career games vs. the Titans. The Titans have been effective rushing the QB this season, as they’ve recorded seven sacks and 43 pressures in two games. Safety Kevin Byard is worth watching on the back end – he has four interceptions in four career games vs the Browns, including a career-high three in Cleveland in 2017.
The Browns suffered a big loss on Monday night when running back Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury. Chubb ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards, rushing TDs and games with 100-plus since entering the NFL in 2018 (behind Henry in all three). So, what will the Browns do without him? RB Jerome Ford stepped in and played well (131 scrimmage yards) after Chubb went down on Monday, and the team signed Kareem Hunt earlier in the week. The Titans have been stout against the run themselves, allowing just 65.0 rushing yards per game, and a 2.71-yard average, and they’ll need to play with an attitude again Sunday.
Importance of Week 3
The Titans need to find some consistency in this young season, and the road challenge is a tough one on Sunday. The Browns, favored by 3.5 points over the Titans, dominated the Bengals in a 24-3 win in their home opener back in September 10 before losing to the Steelers on Monday night. So, it’ll be a battle of 1-1 teams on Sunday in Cleveland. Since 1990, teams that started a season 2-1 have made the playoffs 54.5% of the time, won the division 31.7% of the time and won the Super Bowl 3.7% of the time. The percentages for teams that started 1-2: 25.3 %, 12.6 % and 1.1 %.