This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Tennessee Titans in Week 3. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, and general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
The Browns’ Offensive Outlook vs. Tennessee
- It’s time for the Browns to focus on what is ahead of them for the rest of the 2023 season. The signing of Kareem Hunt helps balance out the emotional loss of Nick Chubb’s season-ending injury, and the team will also get a lengthy look at the long-term viability of Jerome Ford as a contributor in this offense. No one can match exactly what Chubb brought to the table, but Ford has good speed and Hunt has the receiving ability and knack for fighting for yardage in small spaces.
- The real thing that needs to be improved for the Browns is the play of Deshaun Watson. It is hard to preach patience when that was the excuse used last year. The Titans have had one of the top run defenses in the NFL for the past several years, so you have a situation of strength (Titans’ run defense) vs. strength (Browns’ rushing offense). From experience, when that match-up comes up, it’s the defense that usually has the upper hand. That is why my attention is squarely on the shoulders of Watson again, as this could be a game where he needs to throw it repeatedly to sustain drives. That is where Hunt can immediately factor in as both a receiving and blocking back.
- The left tackle situation has been pretty crummy with Jedrick Wills, who seems to be declining as his career goes along. With that said, time to throw was not a game-long issue for Watson last week — he was provided more time than most quarterbacks in the NFL — and still wasn’t able to perform well. I don’t want to hear that the receivers weren’t getting open; that’s the whole point of why the team acquired a guy like Elijah Moore, and yet we kept seeing Watson try to throw these passes along the boundary as if he is incapable of completing a pass to a receiver in stride across the field or up the seam (to be fair, those types of completions have been far and few between).
Is the Defense Ready Again?
- In Week 1, the Browns’ defense capitalized on a Joe Burrow who couldn’t grip the ball and looked completely out-of-sync with his offense. In Week 2, the Browns’ defense took advantage of Kenny Pickett being a below average starting quarterback, aside from one catch-and-run for a touchdown that bit them. What does this week bring?
- Ryan Tannehill is an off-and-on quarterback. He is accurate and historically has stretches where he minimizes the turnovers, but then he got off to a rough start in Week 1 against the Saints, when he completed 47% of his passes and tossed 3 interceptions. Last week was much sharper, as he completed 83% of his passes with 1 touchdown, and the running game was incorporated again.
- Tannehill also has a new toy to work with at receiver this year in DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is dealing with an ankle injury, which might allow Denzel Ward to get the upper hand on him, but the star receiver is still expected to play, as of now. Greg Newsome, who injured his elbow during last week’s loss tot he Steelers, has been ruled out. That likely forces rookie cornerback Cameron Mitchell into more action when the team utilizes three cornerbacks.
- It’s tough to say that the Browns’ defense needs to improve, as they have done a terrific job through two games, only allowing one touchdown, and yet they only have one win to show for it. The sack numbers might not be there, but the defensive front has been doing great work up front. Tannehill has taken 8 sacks in 2 games, so perhaps Cleveland’s front will be able to cause even more disruption on passing downs this week.
- Dustin Hopkins missed one field goal last week, but responded with a 55-yard field goal before the end of the half. Hopkins did have one kickoff that should have gone out of bounds too, but the return man for Pittsburgh had a lapse and fielded it in play.
- For whatever reason, Donovan Peoples-Jones got tentative with fielding punts last week, and it cost the Browns field position a couple of times.
- There are no reports of rain in the forecast.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 3.5 point favorites against the Titans.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “I am expecting a bit of a back-and-forth game, with each team capitalizing more on some defensive plays that lead to shorter drives for their offense, and each team also putting together one or two impressive-looking drives. The Browns’ defense gets the overall edge, but I’m hoping Watson doesn’t just blow it again (like what happened in the fourth quarter last week), because that’s a factor you can’t really predict.” Browns 23, Titans 20
Thomas Moore: “It is hard to think of a Week 3 game as a ‘must-win’ but in the case of the Browns that is exactly what Sunday’s game against the Titans represents. This is the first of three consecutive home games and if the Browns stumble in front of the home fans, with Baltimore and San Francisco up next, it is going to get ugly. The good news is that the Browns are, at least in theory, better than the Titans. If the defense continues to play the way it has so far - a reasonable expectation - and the offense (meaning quarterback Deshaun Watson) simply stops turning the ball over - a reasonable request - then the Browns should win the game.” Browns 14, Titans 9
Barry Shuck: “What a huge disappointment the last game was. The Steelers have a horrible offense, but guess what? So do the Browns. What happened to this idea of flinging the ball around all game? I see a lot of four-wide sets, but something that wasn’t supposed to happen is definitely happening. This offensive line is no longer elite. Not even close. Yes, the loss of Jack Conklin hurts, But in his stead, Dawand Jones is holding his own. Pittsburgh has a great defense certainly, but give up six sacks? Four turnovers? No wonder no receiver that does not have ‘Cooper’ on his back can’t get any catches.
You name a mistake, and this Browns offensive unit will commit it sooner or later. They are in self-destruct mode and currently ranked 30th in passing. Yes, third from the bottom. The Titans can’t throw either, and our defense will stifle them anyway. But as the defense is killing themselves, the offense is busy giving the other team gifts that turn into points that win the game. Deshaun looks like his best playing days are behind him plus this group’s best player is gone for the year. Who leads the league in rushing? We do. Who leads the league in stupid mistakes? We own that as well. This bodes well for us because Tennessee can’t stop the pass but is good at taking the run game out of the equation. Expect low scoring.” Titans 27, Browns 20
Jared Mueller: “I still believe the Cleveland Browns are a very good team. To quote Will Smith from ‘Hitch,’ Deshaun Watson’s job is ‘just not screw it up.’
I have been a believer in Watson since his Clemson days but also recognized that he tries too hard when the pressure is on or he wants it too much. He doesn’t have a feel for the game right now which could come in time but, until it does, he needs to just play smart and simply. Is he capable?
The Titans don’t have the upside the Browns do but are solid in some of the important areas so they will not be a push over.” Browns 23, Titans 17
Ezweav: “Last Monday was tremendously emotional because of the Nick Chubb component. Beyond that, an ugly game where none of the bounces went our way, and the result was a loss to a team that doesn’t look to be close to as talented.
Oh well, time to shake it off and deal with a Titans team that takes themselves more seriously than the rest of the outside world seems to. Mike Vrabel always has these guys ready to play so this isn’t going to be an easy out.
The running game will be impacted by the loss of Chubb but the overall offense should be a bit more efficient now that the gameplan is more pass-defined. While DeShaun Watson didn’t play especially well against Pittsburgh, some of the handwringing over the performance seemed more emotionally based than football based. Especially after losing Chubb, what we could do offensively and how they could play us defensively changed things dramatically and we were unable to overcome it.
I expect Watson to play an efficient game, for Jerome Ford to look cromulent in his new RB1 role, and for Jim Schwartz to to really aggravate the team he coached on last year. Will feel more like week 1 than week 2 after this one.” Browns 29, Titans 16
Curtiss Brown: “It’s week 3 and the negativity is at all time high. Good lord. I will attempt to bring some positivity to a fanbase that honestly lives off it. It’s Week 3. Yes, the Browns lost a winnable game on Monday night against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that was inept offensively, yes losing Nick Chubb for the season sucks and yeah Deshaun Watson looked like garbage. But it’s Week 3. Everyone needs to get a grip. At least attempt to. The only Titans I would worry about are the ones from the anime “Attack on Titan”. Scratch that, running Back Derrick Henry worries me. And defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons. Also wide receiver Treylon Burks and tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo.
But that’s besides the point. Tennessee is really a one dimensional team offensively, if you take away the run you pretty much have the game won because they can’t pass with whatever is left of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. I expect the defense to do their job, they are 2nd in defensive epa/per play behind the Dallas Cowboys. Offensively, I have some faith (not much to be honest) that they can turn it around. Offensive line should be motivated to play much better and Deshaun Watson should be motivated to prove he has something. He has to embrace the villain role and he needs to play better so things can be somewhat stable. The offense will be different without Chubb but its up to the entire offense to figure out something to help calm down an agitated fan base. Close game but Tennessee wins on a bizzare way because why not?” Titans 20, Browns 17
Matt Wood: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?! Many people are hitting the panic button after Monday Night and I won’t lie, there are some very real concerns with the Browns. BUT the season is far from over. The Browns have difference makers all over the field.
This week the Browns quiet some of the noise with a full on rear-end kicking of the Tennessee Oilers. Watson looks good, they get the ball to Moore (in bounds) and the defense once again clamps down on the run game and forces Ryan Tannehill to throw them a few.
Browns pull away late thanks to Jerome Ford getting his first 100 yard game.” Browns 33, Titans 13
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.