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In a battle with teams of identical 8-3 records, the Titans welcome the Browns to the Nissan Stadium, as both teams appear to be cementing a spot in the tight AFC playoffs.
The Titans are currently positioned as the No. 3 seed while the Browns are two places below at No. 5.
This should be a fun, free-flowing game, as shown by the total – the temperature should be around 49 degrees with 4 mph winds and no precipitation in the forecast. Both teams allow at least 25.9 points per game, which creates some favorable advertising opportunities for top defenders.
This game will be a good test for the Browns as they look to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
They should have some chances to move the ball against a Titans team that surprisingly ends up in 28th place in Football Outsider’s defensive DVOA despite their high record. The Titans will need to be at their best to include Nick Chubb, who averages 6.3 yards per rushing attempt.
Chubb has rushed more than 114 yards in his last three games and more than 100 yards in five of the seven games he has played this season. What is even more impressive is perhaps that Chubb leads the NFL with 10 rushes of 20 or more yards.
The Browns will want to continue to get Chubb plenty of hands while Baker Mayfield mainly acts as a game manager. Mayfield has had fewer than 30 assists in each of his last six games, so there seems to be a concerted effort to limit his throws to avoid costly turnover.
In 2019, Mayfield had an average of 33.4 passing attempts per game with a 22-21 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In 2020, he has an average of 26.7 attempts and has a ratio between 17 and 7 TD-to-INT.
With that said, I expect Mayfield to have a decent game on Sunday, especially considering that Titan’s pass defense is ranked 27th in DVOA and 28th in the league with 268.5 yards allowed per game. They are also ranked 27th with a defensive success rate (DSR) of 78%, which captures the proportion of downs series that end up in either a first down or touchdown.
If you’ve seen the Titans play this season, you already know that they almost never leave the field in third place. Per TeamRankings, they are the last of the dead when they let opponents convert in third place to 52.6%. It can be completely groundbreaking for all defenses, but especially against the Browns: They have a chance to monetize their units once inside the red zone, turning 68.6% of their chances into touchdowns, seventh in the league.
Not bad for Mayfield and Co.
On the injury front, the Browns will be without starting wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge due to a hoarding injury. Backup receiver Taywan Taylor is also out with a neck injury, along with starting cornerback Denzel Ward. The backup center Nick Harris and the backup defense Vincent Taylor are both in question after being limited participants in practice this week.
The Titans will adopt a Browns team that, despite its 8-3 start, ranks 31st in strength according to schedule per TeamRankings.com. Just last week, the Browns managed to hang on to a 27-25 victory over the low Jaguars. But seven of Brown’s eight victories have come against teams losing records in Week 13.
The Titans may be in line for a decent offensive day against a Browns defense in 19th place in DVOA. Cleveland allows opponents four red zone opportunities per game, which could prove disastrous against a Tennessee team that ranks fifth with 72.73% for turning those opportunities into touchdowns.
DVOA does not show much of the difference between Cleveland’s pass defense and its defense. Defensively, the Browns are ranked 23rd when they pass DVOA and 20th in rushing DVOA.
Their defense is below average in both areas, which can cause headaches against a Titans team that ranks third in offensive DVOA. Tennessee fans hope this plays out as one of the novels you choose self-adventure because there are several ways for the Titans to score points.
And you can not forget Ryan Tannehill, who is fifth in the league with 76.7 in ESPN’s total QBR and has a 23-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio.
If that’s not enough, All-Pro running back Derrick Henry can also get the opposing team to pay with his 4.9 yards per carry. Henry is also second in the NFL with eight carries on 20 or more yards this season.
The Titans continue to be without cornerback Adoree ‘Jackson, even though he has been activated from IR. Jackson has yet to play a snap because he injured his knee in their season opener.
Defensive end Jeffery Simmons is also on the injury report due to a knee injury. After being a limited participant in training on Thursday, Simmons did not train on Friday and is listed as hesitant for Sunday.
In the event of an attack, Jonnu Smith will from the start also be out from the start due to a knee injury, while left-back Rodger Saffold III is listed as doubtful (ankle) even though he did not train this week.
The Browns come into this game a bit thin with wide receivers, which can put even more emphasis on their driving game.
With Chubb collecting 6.3 yards per carry, I’m convinced Cleveland can run the ball on this Tennessee defense. Titan’s problems in third place may also come back to bite them given Chubb’s effectiveness. If the Browns are to have any chance of winning on Sunday, they must jump on the back of the Chubb and check possession time.
I like over at Chubb’s rushing yards. I also like him as a touchdown goal scorer at any time. I would play his rushing laps over up to 87.
PICK: Nick Chubb Over 85.5 Rush Yards