Cleveland will be heading into Nashville this weekend fresh off their week 4 bye. They've had some time to clean up some mistakes, as well as get healthy. So let's take a look at the 3 reasons I think we should all be optimistic heading into Sunday's contest.
1. The Bye
The Browns are coming off the early bye, but it may have come at a perfect time. The Browns have had some important players nursing injuries in recent weeks, and may be (relatively) close to full strength come Sunday. HC Mike Pettine said earlier this week that Ben Tate will be the starter if healthy, which appears to be a realistic possibility. Jordan Cameron has also been nursing a shoulder injury, but he says he's getting better.
In addition to getting healthy in key areas, the Browns used their bye week to address the defense which has been a major disappointment thus far. The Browns will enter Sunday as the 30th rated defense in the league, 29th in rushing and 27th in passing yards. That's no good, especially from a defense that was supposed to be the strong side of this team.
With the extra week to prepare, expect the Browns to come out firing on all cylinders for once this season.
2. The Titans are not good
Okay, I'll admit, this one's kind of a cop-out. But, the fact is still true, they're just not very good. The Titans haven't scored in the first quarter through their 4 games this year. The Browns defensive struggles have been well documented (see bullet #1), so facing off against a team that has yet to score in the first quarter is huge.
The Titans are scoring 15 points per game, while giving up 27.5 per game, good for 30th and 27th in the league respectively. The Browns, on the other hand, are scoring 24.7 per game while giving up 25.7, 12th and 23rd, respectively. As I mentioned before, the Browns defense was expected to carry the team early on, but it's been quite the contrary. The offense has surprised many, and been quite effective through three games.
The Browns are also rushing the ball at a very impressive clip, 132.7 yards per game rushing, ranking 10th in the league. The Titans are giving up 127 rushing yards per game, ranking 22nd. So the Browns should be able to rely on their ground game. With the stable of Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell, and Terrance West, expect the Browns to pound the ball on the ground Sunday (with a good amount of success too).
3. Ben Tate
I know I already mentioned Tate, and the run game, but it's worth reiterating here. Tate had 6 carries for 41 yards (6.8 ypc) week 1 against the Steelers. That's pretty solid, for a short days work. He's been sidelined with a knee injury since that game. However, last year with the Texans, Tate had 93 yards on just 9 carries (10.3 ypc) against the Titans. In 5 career games against the Titans he's averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
Is that an isolated sample size? Maybe. Is it interesting? Sure. Do I think he goes for 100+ yards Sunday? Yeah, I do.
There's a few factors at play that will give the Browns the victory Sunday. The aforementioned 3 are the keys I'm looking at. I think it'll come down to a battle in the trenches, with both teams looking to pound the ball on the ground. Ultimately I think the Browns are better equipped for that sort of contest, and will win their first road game since beating the Vikings last year in Brian Hoyer's first start as a Brown.
What do you think, why are you optimistic for Sunday?