Ten(nessee) things to look for in Browns vs. Titans

Congratulations, everyone who’s reading this. Somehow, you survived the bye week and lived to see another Sunday of Cleveland Browns football. It wasn’t easy, and you may have done some things you’re not proud of, but the wait is over now. You made it. Today, you get to do things you may not be proud of in retrospect, but at least it will be in the name of willing the Browns to victory.

The Browns are definitely what the experts would call “in the hunt” at 1-2, and can climb back to the .500 mark this afternoon with a win at LP Field. Before you scoff at the “in the hunt” reference, remember how it feels to be out of it. It may only be October, but take nothing for granted. You know this already, let’s get on with it.

As the wonderfully clever headline suggests, it’s time to rattle off ten things to watch for from the Browns today in Nashville. As usual, some of them may make you wonder why you ever started reading this.

1. How impactful will Ben Tate’s expected return be?

Tennessee’s defense enters Sunday 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, and the Browns have been able to use a balanced attack in the running game effectively to climb into the NFL’s top ten in rushing yards per game. Tate should only help, as he certainly came to Cleveland with some relatively high expectations given his production as the second option in Houston for years. He’s also making his return to my fantasy starting lineup, so that adds some significant weight here. No pressure, though. Oh God, did I just put unnecessary pressure on Ben Tate?

2. Speaking of the run game, the Browns should rely on it. Sort of. OK, also throw the ball.

The flip side of the story of the Titans defensive unit is that they’ve been decent against the pass. They’re 10th in the NFL in pass yards per, this all despite being absolutely torched by Andrew Luck and the Colts in week four for almost 400 yards and four touchdowns. In their three straight losses, the Titans have given up an extremely poor 33 points per game.

3. The bye week should help

Mike Pettine’s crew has had a while to look at this Tennessee team, and the bottom line is that the Titans simply aren’t that good. That’s not to say that the Browns should dismantle them, because we frankly don’t know how good the Browns are, either. Still, the Titans are reeling after losing their last three by a combined score of 100-34, and that should mean a victory for the well-rested Brownies. Should.

4. We’re not in Cleveland anymore

Road woes for the Browns have been well documented, and they came painfully close to exorcising those demons with a storming comeback at Pittsburgh. It’s important to note that the Browns haven’t really won anywhere over the past few seasons, so it’s not like the contrast between home and road records is that shocking. Basically, a road win would be special, but so would any win. So let’s win, yeah?

5. Jake Locker returns

After missing last week’s debacle in Indianapolis, Locker is back for the Titans. He hasn’t been very good, though. In his past two games, Locker has thrown two picks apiece while only throwing one touchdown combined. Locker had a nice day on opening weekend in a win over Kansas City, but history suggests that that was more of an outlier than his two poor performances that followed. Calling it right now, Joe Haden gets his first interception of the season this afternoon.

6. Phil Taylor’s outfit

This is something you won’t have to wait for. Sharp look for Big Phil.

7. Browns fans will be heard

A source close to Believing Since 1999 is on the tailgating ground in Nashville and reports that a strong contingent of Orange and Brown is on the scene. This report has since been substantiated on Twitter.

8. A confidence boost for the pass rush?

The Titans have allowed 11 sacks on the season so far, tied for fifth in the NFL. Conversely, the Browns’ pass rush has left a little to be desired. Maybe this is the week that all of the talent the Browns are supposed to have in their pass rush arsenal comes together to get to the quarterback and wreak havoc. Still, Locker is mobile in the pocket and can be dangerous with his legs, so a concerted effort to keep him contained will be important.

9. Special teams should be more special 

Long snapper Christian Yount is going to be dynamite. I can feel it.

10. Family ties

Ray Horton was the Browns’ defensive coordinator last season, now he holds the same position with the Titans. Tennessee running back Bishop Sankey is from Wadsworth. Jimmy Haslam is from Tennessee. It’s practically a Civil War. It’s not really.

This should be fun. The Browns are back, they’re about as healthy as anyone could ask for and they’re ready to roll in week five. By the time you’ve gotten to the end of this thing, you’ll be closer to kick than you were when you started. And you’ll be more informed. You’re welcome.


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