The Browns are above .500! What’s that? Their opponents to date are a combined 1-8, and that one win came against the Browns? I say it again: don’t harsh my buzz. I personally didn’t think these Browns were destined for greatness, so it’s kind of a nice surprise to see them showing that they are, in fact, NOT the worst team in the league. They’re building something for the future, and the early returns are promising. The past two years’ first- and second-round picks are all contributing. When was the last time you could honestly say that?
Likewise, not much was expected of the Titans this year, and they are surprising a lot of people with how well they’ve played, especially largely without Chris Johnson contributing like he has in years-past. Offensively, these have been the bizarro-Titans through the first three weeks: they’re seventh overall in the league with over 300 yards per game, and are literally last in the league in rushing yards per game, with just under 52 yards per game. However, it should be pointed out that the Titans are losing their biggest receiving threat with Kenny Britt down to a knee injury. Defensively, they’re as good as ever thus far, limiting opposing offenses to 261 total yards per game (172 passing, 89 rushing). That does not bode well for the Browns’ offense. Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Editor’s note: Similar to the pats weeks, we have started things off with sharing some takes with our audience over at Still WFNY – please feel free to head over to Cleveland.com to partake. We have also invited Daniel Wolf from National Football Authority to contribute to our weekly post. If you haven’t already, check out his website and twitter for Browns news and info. Take it away, Daniel…
Daniel Wolf : … they can develop a better rushing attack. Head coach Pat Shurmur seems too set on being a pass-first offense but the reality is, unless one of the wide receivers can step up his game, they need to run the ball more. Last week, Montario Hardesty proved he can indeed be a very good backup for Peyton Hillis. But beyond that, he showed he brings a completely different skill-set to the field which will keep defenses off balance. Am I saying Hardesty should get more touches than Hillis? Of course not, but my point is if you can evenly distribute around 35-40 touches between both Hillis and Hardesty, then the Browns will be a tough team to defend and the pass game could really open up as a result.
Craig: … they can score. The defense should be able to keep the Titans mostly at bay because I think the Browns can win the line of scrimmage. That means that Pat Shurmur needs to get the offense going. Many of the Browns’ slow starts are due to pressure on McCoy early in games. McCoy doesn’t respond well early and seems to get more comfortable as the game moves along. That means the Browns should try and establish the running game. That also means figuring out how to effectively distribute the load between Hillis and Hardesty while also not just going run-run-pass-punt.
Scott: …they find a way to push the inevitable Chris Johnson breakout game to Week 5 at the earliest. With Kenny Britt out with the devistating knee injury, the Browns will only have to focus on Nate Washington. While I think Jared Cook may be targeted a bit due to the lack of other targets, TJ Ward has shown an improved ability in said protection. That leaves Johnson as the Browns’ main focus of attention; keep him at bay (as others have to this point) and the game is theirs to win. On the offensive side, the Browns will have to be more efficient – a 2-for-10 start in the passing game will not do anyone favors. As much as Shurmur et all want to air it out, this may be one to be a little more methodical.
DP: …they can slow Matt Hasselbeck down, and Chris Johnson thinks it’s still the pre-season for just one more week. The Browns have done fairly well against the pass to this point, and with Kenny Britt out of the lineup now for Tennessee, the job gets slightly easier. Nate Washington and Damian Williams will have to step in and step up for Britt, and Johnson needs to step up to take some of the pressure off. To this point, though, Tennessee has not run the ball effectively at all, which helps the Browns. Offensively, the Browns seriously need to figure out what they’re trying to do, and execute it… hopefully in the first quarter for a change. The Titans are stout defensively, and the Browns will need to figure out ways to exploit it. Despite their numbers, the Titans have had some issues with good ball carriers: MJD went for 97 against them in week 1; Ray Rice struggled at 3.3 ypc, but only carried the ball 13 times because of the game score. The issue is that the Titans’ rush defense has gotten better each week. In terms of passing, Colt McCoy needs his receivers to get open, but he needs to hit those receivers when they are. Missing on plays like last week when Josh Cribbs was open for what would have been six points just can’t happen against a good defense like the Titans’.
Rick: …they can defend Chris Johnson like the Broncos were able to do. Denver pushed a safety into the box on most every running play I saw, save for one. And Chris Johnson picked up 15 yards on it. Fortunately for Denver there was a penalty that brought it back. It would have been his longest run of the day by 7 yards. Make the Titans one dimensional. Force Hasslebeck to beat you without his favorite target Kenny Britt. Make sure you can account for TE Daniel Graham though. Put Haden on Nate Washington. Offensively, many have suggested going to a 2 minute style offense at the beginning to try and manufacture a little rhythm. Whatever it takes to get this offense started in the first quarter as opposed to the second is fine with me. But don’t get too pass happy. The rushing game is still a strength of this team. You can still run the ball while searching for a rhythm.
TD - Thus far, the newly minted highest-paid back in the game, Chris Johnson, has done little to nothing. That of course is bad news as far as the Browns are concerned. With the injury to stud WR Kenny Britt, you know the Titans, a run-first team to begin with – will want to pound the Browns D into submission. Keeping the defense on the field, tiring them out, will be a key for the Titans. With that said, the Browns will need to play an extra man in the box and dare Matt Hasselbeck to beat them with his arm.
Offensively, I’d like to see more of a balance between Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Last week against Miami, Hardesty showed why the Browns were so high on him two years ago. Pounding with these two backs will open things up for Colt McCoy and the passing game. The Titans secondary is solid, so I look for McCoy to target Evan Moore and Ben Watson even more than he normally does.
Now, for the other side of the coin. We reached out to two different Titans blogs to get the skinny on this game from their end. They’re riding the wave of a good start, and they brought the science. Without further ado…
The Titans Will Win If…
Jimmy Morris is the General Manager of the SBNation Tennessee Titans blog Music City Miracles.
…they take care of their own business. They have had a couple of games where tackling has been an issue. They let guys like Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice turn some plays that could have been short gains into big plays because of missed tackles. Tackling well is very important when facing a guy like Peyton Hillis who makes his living off of breaking tackles. It will also be important for the Titans to make the most of their scoring chances. From what I have seen from the Browns, they look like a team that wants to grind it out, keep the game close, and win it in the fourth quarter. They aren’t really built to come from behind in a hurry. If the Titans have chances in the red zone, they need to get touchdowns instead of field goals. That would take Hillis out of the game and put pressure on Colt McCoy to throw the ball down the field.
Drexel Perry and Andrew Strickert are two of the three authors from Total Titans, selected as the best Tennessee Titans blog for its fresh, original content.
Drexel: …they do a number of things. 1. Contain Cleveland’s two-headed monster at running back: Mr. Madden 2012 himself, Peyton Hills, is a throwback whose punishing running style can wreak havoc on opposing defenses. I’m also a bit wary of Montarrio Hardesty, who stepped up with a solid showing in Peyton’s absence last week. As the Jaguars demonstrated in Week One, the Titans can be susceptible to a punishing, opposing rushing attack. If the Hillis/Hardesty combo is contained, the Titans chances of winning this ballgame will greatly increase.
2. Get Chris Johnson on track: CJ2K has went from rushing for 2,000 yards a couple of years ago to barely averaging over 2 yards per carry (2.1) in 2011. Hopefully, he can get back to his playmaking ways as he faces a “generous” Cleveland run defense that’s currently ranked 29th in the league.
3. Pressure Colt McCoy: As an impartial/outside observer, I’ve been impressed with the strides McCoy has made throughout the preseason and continuing into the regular season during his sophomore campaign. He looks as if he has what it takes to be a solid QB in this league for years to come. For the Titans to emerge victorious in the Dawg Pound on Sunday, they’ll have to do a good job of making life a bit miserable for the up-and-coming McCoy through the means of a consisent, in-your-face pass-rush.
Andrew: …two things happen. First, on offense, the o-line needs to open some holes for Chris Johnson. Curious why Johnson is off to a slow start? Look no further than the o-line, particularly the interior line, which has been atrocious in run-blocking. The Titans can pass the ball, even without WR Kenny Britt, who has been sidelined for the rest of the year. Now the Titans need production from their other playmaker.
On defense, the Titans will win if they avoid penalties. Last week, they were penalized 7 times for 50 yards, with both of Denver’s touchdowns coming on drives aided by 15-yard penalties. Tennessee dodged a bullet last week but they can’t get away with penalties against stronger competition, which Cleveland ought to provide.
What say, there, fuzzy britches?