The Cleveland Browns head to Nashville to tackle the Tennessee Titans on Sunday for what could possibly be Week 13’s prime matchup. Each group are 8-3, tied for the fourth-best file within the NFL general so this sport might find yourself having large ramifications as we get nearer to setting the AFC playoff bracket.
Recent off a 27-25 win in opposition to Jacksonville final week, the Browns are at present hanging on to the fifth seed within the AFC and are off to their finest begin since 1994. One other win on Sunday would put Cleveland one step nearer towards solidifying a playoff spot and ending the league’s longest lively playoff drought of 18 years. Nonetheless, the Browns are nonetheless searching for a signature win and making an attempt to show they’ll beat extra than simply dangerous groups. Cleveland is simply 1-3 in opposition to groups with a successful file this season with a mixed 13 factors in these three losses. A win in opposition to the Titans wouldn’t solely put a feather within the Browns’ cap, however, may show they belong with the contenders.
However, the Titans cannot determine what they wish to be. Legit? Simply okay? Type of good? Actually good? Three weeks in the past, the Titans appeared marginal. That they had misplaced three of their final 4 video games and have been knocked out of first place within the AFC South with a 17-point dwelling whooping from Indianapolis on “Thursday Evening Soccer.” However, after blasting those self-same Colts 45-26 on the highway final Sunday, Tennessee has received back-to-back video games, is again in the first place within the division, and appears extra just like the squad that blasted off to a 5-0 begin this season. At this level, the Titans are a near-lock to make the playoffs however whether or not or not they belong within the dialogue with the likes of the AFC heavyweights stays to be seen.
Cleveland at Tennessee
- Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 6, at 1 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
- Unfold: Tennessee -6
Three Issues to Watch
1. The return of Myles Garrett
There are solely a handful of defensive gamers within the league that offensive coordinators should sport plan round. Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald, and Von Miller, when he is wholesome. Myles Garrett’s identify is also on that brief checklist.
Garrett’s pass-rushing abilities are elite. His 9.5 sacks this season rank third within the league, even after lacking the final two video games whereas on the reserve/COVID-19 checklist. Garrett is a significant component in stopping the run as nicely. With Garrett within the lineup, the Browns are top-10 speeding protection. Without him, the unit has struggled throughout the board.
Final week, Cleveland received the sport in opposition to Jacksonville however the protection did not pressure any turnovers or file a single sack in opposition to the Jaguars offence, which was led by third-string, journeyman quarterback Mike Glennon. On prime of that, an undrafted free agent operating again James Robinson ran for a career-high 128 yards and averaged 5.8 yards a carry. Two weeks in the past, the Eagles’ Miles Sanders ripped off 96 speeding yards speeding within the first half alone within the first sport Garrett missed. In Week 8 in opposition to Las Vegas, Garrett solely performed 33 snaps, and the Raiders completed with 209 speeding yards of their 10-point win.
Thankfully for the Browns, Garrett is about to return to the lineup simply in time to tackle Derrick Henry, the NFL’s main rusher.
2. Runner’s delight
Talking of Henry, if you weren’t conscious — he is excellent. Like, finest within the NFL at operating the ball sort of fine. Henry (1,257 yards) finds himself atop of the speeding leaderboard but once more after a dominant efficiency final Sunday in Indianapolis when he ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns, all of these coming within the first half. In his final three video games, Henry has totalled 414 yards on the bottom, 4 touchdowns, and a wholesome 5.4 yards per carrying. However, he will not be the one operating again to be aware in Sunday’s showdown.
If Henry is the perfect operating again within the league, then the Browns’ Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the NFL’s finest backfield. Chubb (719 yards in seven video games) and Hunt (706) are each top-10 rushers this season, rating seventh and ninth within the league, respectively. They’re at present on tempo to be the second operating again tandem to every break the 1,000-yard speeding mark since Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams did it in 2009 with the Panthers.
Chubb is the Browns’ bell cow. He’s the big-play again able to break off large runs week after week. He is infamous for carrying down opposing defences as the sport goes on, identical to Henry. In his final three video games, Chubb is averaging 128 yards per sport, 6.6 yards per carrying, and has 14 runs of 10 yards or extra. His 102.7 speeding yards per sports rank third behind solely Henry (114.3) and Dalvin Cook dinner (113), whereas his 6.3 yards per carrying is the perfect within the NFL for an operating again.
Hunt is the Browns’ utility again, able to placing his stamping on a sport in numerous methods. He’s particularly harmful in the area and as a move catcher within the crimson zone. Seven of his eight complete touchdowns have come within the crimson zone, whereas all of his team-leading 4 landing catches have been from 10 yards and in. Collectively, Chubb and Hunt type some of the dynamic backfields the NFL has seen since, nicely, possibly ever? They’re actually perfect that this Titans protection has seen this season.
Between the three of them — Henry, Chubb, and Hunt — I would not be stunned to see a complete of a minimum of 65 touches.
3. Can Baker be higher?
A lot is on the road for the Browns’ younger and charismatic franchise quarterback, Baker Mayfield. On the floor plainly Mayfield has improved from final yr’s disastrous sophomore season. He is finishing a better variety of passes (61.2 p.c vs. 59.4), throwing extra touchdowns (17 vs. 23), fewer interceptions (7 vs. 21), and is extra environment friendly (92.3 passer ranking vs. 78.8). Regardless of his obvious basic enhancement and the Browns being on the cusp of creating their first playoff look since NSYNC broke up, Mayfield has nonetheless but to show he is the long-term reply for Cleveland.
Mayfield has performed nicely sufficient this season to beat dangerous groups. Nice. Kyle Orton and Josh McCown did that, too. However enjoying simply nicely sufficient in opposition to dangerous groups would not make you a franchise quarterback, it makes you Charlie Whitehurst. Taking part in nicely and successful video games in opposition to good groups, playoff-calibre groups, makes you the man. Mayfield has but to play nicely sufficient to beat good groups this season, or in his profession in any respect for that matter.
In Cleveland’s three losses this season, all in opposition to groups with successful information (Ravens, Steelers, Raiders), Mayfield has been flat-out terrible. In these three video games, Mayfield has thrown simply two touchdowns to 3 interceptions. He is accomplished solely 52 p.c of his passes, posted a grisly 60.5 passer ranking, and a measly 5.2 yards per try. He is been held beneath 170 yards passing in every one of these losses.
At finest, he was a non-factor in these video games. At worst, he is the anchor weighing down the perfect Browns offence since Derek Anderson was the quarterback in 2007 — which is a really odd sentence to sort. This week Mayfield has an opportunity to win a key highway sport in opposition to a superb (I feel) Titans staff that simply so occurs to have one of many worst move defences and the worst third-down protection within the league.
Even with Myles Garrett again and probably the most dynamic speeding assault within the league, this sport will nonetheless be an uphill battle for the Browns due to Baker Mayfield’s unreliable play. The Titans’ offence is hitting on all cylinders with the emergence of A.J. Brown as one of many sport’s finest deep threats, Derrick Henry doing Derrick Henry issues, and Ryan Tannehill enjoying regular and constant at quarterback.