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Browns vs. Titans: NFL Week 7 Preview and Prediction

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With DeShone Kizer back in the saddle for Cleveland, could we be in store for an upset against the Titans?

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This week, the Cleveland Browns take on the Tennessee Titans in Week 7 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.


Position-by-Position Evaluation


Quarterback

  • Marcus Mariota had a very good 2016 season, throwing for 26 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions. He hasn't been as sharp in 2017, throwing for 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in 4.5 games.
  • The dimension of Mariota’s game that makes him really tough to defend is his mobility. In his first four games this year, he ran 20 times for 116 yards and 3 touchdowns. But he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 4, missed Week 5, and then returned last week. He was still able to be effective from the pocket, but he had to stay there, finishing the game with no rushing yards. His mobility should improve this week a little, but that area of his game should remain limited.
  • The Browns are going back to DeShone Kizer after the one-week experiment with Kevin Hogan, and Cody Kessler will be the No. 2 quarterback for the first time this season. Kizer was inaccurate and a redzone turnover machine during his five starts, showing an inability to process decisions quickly. It’s hard to imagine that has changed drastically after one week of observation.

Running Back

  • The Titans have one of the better one-two punches at running back in the NFL. DeMarco Murray is battling through a hamstring injury right now, but if he can play, he has 68 rushes for 313 yards (4.6 YPC) and 2 TD on the year. His backup, Derrick Henry, has 62 carries for 318 yards (5.1 YPC) and 2 TD. Each back has shown big-play potential with 75- and 72-yard rushing touchdowns, respectively. Neither of them are involved very much as receivers.
  • We're still waiting for that big breakout game from Isaiah Crowell. He averaged 4.8 YPC last week against the Texans, but a huge deficit at halftime killed the run calls in the second half again. Duke Johnson is up to 5.6 YPC on the season, but had his least productive receiving day last week: 3 catches for -1 yards on 5 targets, and quarterbacks were intercepted on 2 of those targets.

Wide Receiver / Tight End

  • With rookie Corey Davis still on the shelf to injury, the Titans' top two receivers are Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker. Decker is coming off his most productive game of the season, but he's solely a possession-type receiver. Matthews will stretch the field more and could have some plays to make if Jason McCourty is out.
  • Tennessee likes to be a run-dominant team, so we’ll see a lot of two tight end looks from them. If they do utilize a third receiver, it’ll be rookie Taywan Taylor. He only has 7 catches on the year, but two of them went for 42 and 53 yards.
  • Their primary tight ends include Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith. Walker is the team's leading receiver, but came down with a calf injury late in the week and is questionable. Smith has almost exclusively been a blocking tight end, but does have touchdown grabs of 32 and 24 yards.
  • For our standards, the Browns had something going with Kasen Williams and Bryce Treggs over the past two games. But Kenny Britt is expected to make his return this week after being absent for two games. I think his role will but cut down so that he only plays about 40% of the snaps. If he is an everydown player, I think it sends the wrong message in light of Williams having stepped up.
  • A Browns tight end has caught a touchdown in four of the past five games. David Njoku has 2 catches for 0 yards last week, but Hue Jackson said they had several big plays dialed up for him that he feels they missed on. Could they go back to them this week?

Offensive Line

  • The Titans’ starting offensive line includes LT Taylor Lewan, LG Quinton Spain, C Ben Jones, RG Josh Kline, and RT Jack Conklin. Cleveland has failed to take advantage of a long string of match-ups against below average offensive lines. Now, they square off against a really good line, including a Pro Bowl caliber player in Lewan at left tackle. Marcus Mariota has been sacked 3 times in 142 pass attempts. His backup, Matt Cassel, has been sacked 8 times in 42 pass attempts. Quite a difference.
  • I asked out Titans affiliate where their area of weakness is this year, and they pointed at the interior with Spain and Jones at left guard and center, respectively. Remember that two of DE Myles Garrett’s sacks have come on stunts to that area.
  • Despite J.C. Tretter and Shon Coleman being questionable last week, both players were off the injury report for Week 7 and appear to be OK. It’s pretty impressive that Cleveland’s line has yet to miss a single snap through six games.

Defensive Line

  • The Titans run a 3-4 defense featuring DE DaQuan Jones, NT Sylvester Williams, and DT Jurrell Casey up front. Williams’ action will be limited, and Casey has historically been the biggest threat on Tennessee’s front. This year is no different, as he has 2 sacks and a team-high 8 quarterback hits. He’ll move around all game long, but should primarily be matched up against the Browns’ guards.
  • The chains are supposed to be off of DE Myles Garrett this week, and while I’m sure the Titans will gameplan for him, it’s still exciting news. Where he will have to be on top of his game, though, is as a run defender. I have no doubt that Tennessee will have a run-heavy approach because a) that’s the type of team they are, and b) Marcus Mariota’s mobility is still limited. They could have LT Taylor Lewan bait Garrett upfield, only to run inside of his spot on a delay.
  • The Browns get the edge here because their depth is far superior and they have players will some real strengths (Garrett vs. the pass, and Danny Shelton and Larry Ogunjobi vs. the run).

Linebacker

  • The Titans' starting linebackers are OLB Derrick Morgan, ILB Wesley Woodyard, ILB Avery Williamson, and OLB Brian Orakpo. This is a veteran unit, and Woodyard has been one of the NFL’s best run defenders at linebacker and Williamson leads the team in tackles. Morgan leads the team with 3 sacks, but is battling an abdominal injury this week.
  • Before long, we’re going to need to start having some discussions about what is going on with the Browns’ linebackers. Jamie Collins is the team’s worst-graded defender, and Christian Kirksey hasn’t been much better. Quarterbacks have nearly a perfect passer rating against them and are targeting their coverage areas week after week. What should be a strength for Cleveland has actually been a complete non-factor.

Secondary

  • The Titans’ starting cornerbacks include Adoree' Jackson and Logan Ryan, with LeShaun Sims as the nickelback. Jackson, the team’s 18th overall pick, has been up-and-down this season, but the last two weeks have been trending upward. The trio does not have a single interception this season.
  • Tennessee's safeties include FS Kevin Byard and SS Da'Norris Searcy. Byard has continued to play well into his second year. Searcy has filled in very well for starter Johnathan Cyprien.
  • It’s tough to judge who gets the advantage in the secondary, especially since I have my doubts that Jason McCourty will be able to face his former team after coming down with an ankle injury during the week. But because Tennessee primarily runs two receiver sets, they’d still have Jamar Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun good-to-go.
  • The Browns’ safety position continues to underwhelm, and Jabrill Peppers is dealing with a toe injury this week.

Special Teams

  • Ryan Succop is the Titans' kicker. He joined the Titans in 2014, and through 2016, the most attempts he'd had in a season was 24. We're 6 games into the 2017 season, and he's already 16-of-17 on field goals. The longest field goal of his career went for 54 yards, and he's not really known as a long distance specialist.
  • Brett Kern is the Titans' punter. He's 2nd in the NFL in punt average (51.5), just ahead of the Browns' Britton Colquitt (3rd place at 50.5). Kern has the edge in net average (46.9), where he ranks 2nd in the NFL compared to Colquitt's 42.2 net average (8th place).
  • CB Adoree Jackson handles kickoffs and punts for the Titans, and he can be lighting fast. His longest kick return this year went for 48 yards. He also has a 46-yard punt return. With S Jabrill Peppers dealing with a toe injury, we might see WR Bryce Treggs on return duties for Cleveland.

Predictions

Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.


Chris Pokorny: “I always think that one week, things will go an NFL team’s way — Cleveland did beat San Diego last year, after all. The Browns have also played semi-competitive home games against Pittsburgh and New York (Jets), with one lopsider in between vs. the Bengals. But even with Mariota’s limited mobility, he’ll get the ball out quick and find enough success handing the ball off. Tennessee has coverage vulnerabilities, but I haven’t seen a reason yet to believe that Kizer will be able to take advantage of them.” Titans 23, Browns 17.


Matt Wood: “Browns stink. Kizer looks better but still makes a few bad turnovers. Hue doesn't bench Kizer. On defense the crew gives it a good go but some read option opens up some huge runs for the Titans late as they pull away. Hue faces a must win next week in London.” Titans 31, Browns 10.


Mike Hoag: “I expect another big loss here. The Titans offense should score enough to counter any success Kizer and the Browns’ lackluster offense can muster against their beatable defense.” Titans 31, Browns 17.


Andrea Hangst: “Though the Titans haven't been as good this year as many had predicted, the Browns shouldn't present much of a challenge. Tennessee has the better offense and greater cohesion as a team while the Browns continue to struggle with their latest attempt to improve.” Titans 24, Browns 10.


Robo Dawg: “Browns defense continues to over pursue and the schematic angel continues to approach the ball poorly. We continue to leave the center of the field uncovered with predictable zone coverage and the Titans opportunistically score 4 TDs. Meanwhile, Kizer comes out angry and inaccurate, and the Browns have 3 Red Zone turnovers. Despite looking dominant on both offense and defense, Browns lose.” Titans 28, Browns 10.


Joshua Finney: “ZzzZzzzzZZZzzz. Browns actually match up (on paper) better vs the Titans; gimpy Mariota and a team that wants to pound it on the ground, which is the strength of this Browns defense. I’m sure they’ll find a more inventive way to lose than they have recently . Delanie Walker fantasy owners about to HAVE A DAY.” Titans 27, Browns 16.


notthatnoise: “Marcus Mariota is still recovering from a hamstring injury that limits his mobility, while Myles Garrett is getting healthier every day. The Browns defense comes to play, but the offense continues to struggle after another QB switch this week.” Browns 11, Titans 5.


apocrylle: “The Titans struggling defense is just what Kizer needs to get into a rhythm in his return as he delivers in the red zone for one touchdown pass and doesn't turn the ball over once. Crow has his best day of the year on the ground with over 100 yards and a touchdown. Duke adds one late on the ground. Mariota is pressured in the pocket by Garrett all game but comes up with several big throws over the middle at the half and in the two minute drill. The Browns barely hang on as the Titans miss a chip shot field goal with time expiring.” Browns 27, Titans 24.


Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.

Poll

Who do you think will win, Browns or Titans? Pick the one closest to your prediction.

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Browns by 7+
    (35 votes)
  • 18%
    Browns by 3
    (98 votes)
  • 10%
    Titans by 3
    (58 votes)
  • 64%
    Titans by 7+
    (347 votes)
538 votes total Vote Now