This Sunday, October 16, the Tennessee Titans (2-3) host the Cleveland Browns (0-5) at Nissan Stadium for a Week 6 NFL matchup. Kickoff is at 12:00 PM CST.
Let’s consider four game-time encounters.
Titans vs. too much confidence
It could be easy for the Titans to adopt a hyper-confident mindset versus the Browns, considering that Cleveland is winless and will be starting the fourth or fifth quarterback on their depth chart depending on the progression of injuries this week.
However, there are ample reasons for the Titans to be cautious.
They have not won consecutive games since 2013; they have not beaten a non-Jacksonville team at home since 2013; and they have a history of giving winless teams their first victory of the season.
In 2011, the Titans lost 27-13 to the 0-13 Indianapolis Colts, which eventually pushed them out of the playoffs due to a tiebreaker. Then in 2013, they lost to the 0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars.
Also, the Browns are by means a horrible team — They could easily be 2-3. In Week 2 they played a close game with the Baltimore Ravens (3-2). And in Week 4 they would have beaten the Miami Dolphins (1-4) if not for a missed field goal in the fourth quarter.
This all goes to say that a healthy balance of confidence and caution could benefit the Titans as they enter their matchup on Sunday.
“The focus of this week is to cancel out the noise,” said tight end Delanie Walker. “We’re not looking at their record or the situation they’re in. At the end of the day, it’s the NFL, and any team can show up.”
Isaiah Crowell vs. Titans’ defense
Running back Isaiah Crowell is the Browns’ best offensive player.
He ranks fifth in the NFL for rushing yards per game (83.2); he averages 5.6 yards per rush attempt; and he gains just over 10 yards per reception.
Crowell should see a lot of action on Sunday. The Browns will be starting either the fourth or fifth quarterback on their depth chart, so it is reasonable to assume that head coach Hue Jackson will stem offensive drives through the rush.
A betting man would wager that Titans’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is going to do everything in his power to contain Crowell in order to make the Browns play left-handed, so to say.
Through the first five weeks of the season, LaBeau and the Titans’ defense have done well to contain the opposing team’s best offensive player.
In Week 1 Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson had 31 yards on 19 carries. In Week 2 Lions’ receiver Golden Tate had two catches for 13 yards. In Week 3 Raiders’ receiver Amari Cooper had four catches for 62 yards. In Week 4 Texans’ receiver DeAndre Hopkins had one catch for four yards. And in Week 5 Dolphins’ receiver Jarvis Landry had three catches for 28 yards.
There is little reason to assume that LaBeau’s strategy will change on Sunday. Watch for Jurrell Casey in the trenches and for Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan on the edges to target Crowell.
Mike Mularkey vs. play calling
Titans’ head coach Mike Mularkey gave an honest showing of smash mouth offense last week versus the Dolphins.
DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota gained 235 yards on the ground. The three averaged 5.7 yards per carry. And on the Titans’ four scoring drives, 22 play calls were rushes while just 12 were passes.
Will Mularkey employ a similar game plan this Sunday?
The Browns rank 20th in the NFL for rush defense. This metric suggests that the Titans will run the ball often. However, the Browns also rank 25th for pass defense, which may prompt Mularkey to balance rush attempts with pass attempts.
Joe Thomas vs. Brian Orakpo
Joe Thomas has been one of the most consistent right tackles in the league through the past decade. This season is no different as Thomas is graded as the NFL’s six overall tackle through Week 5.
On Sunday the nine-time Pro Bowler will line up against Titans’ outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. This contest should prove to be one worth watching.
Orakpo has six sacks this season, which ties for second-most in the league. He is coming off a two-sack performance against the Dolphins. And he grades as the NFL’s 11th overall edge defender through Week 5.
The Titans play aggressive from the start of the game, much like they did versus the Dolphins, and hold true to their running game to bring Tennessee its first consecutive wins since the 2013 season. Final score, 20-13.