Like clockwork, every year an NFL team loses in week one, most people want to overreact to that loss and write off that team, only for them to turn around and win in week two. This year’s example was the Titans, as they lost a brutal game to the Saints but would return home to beat the Chargers as underdogs. With that first win under their belt, the Titans are now back on the road to take on Deshaun Watson and the Browns.
Winning covers up a lot of underlying issues in sports, and through two weeks, that is the case with Deshaun Watson. The Browns' signal caller did not play well in week one, but the Browns got the win, so his criticisms, at least on a national scale, were not too strong but after Cleveland’s 26-22 loss to the Steelers on Monday Night Football that is not the case.
Watson finished the game with a 55% completion percentage, somehow two facemask penalties, and an interception. To make matters worse for the Browns offense, they would also lose running back Nick Chubb to a terrible injury, which means Jerome Ford and the recently signed Kareem Hunt will lead the running game. Ford did play well on Monday Night and finished the game with 106 yards on 16 attempts, but the NFL is a passing league, so Cleveland will only go as far as Watson lets them.
Things will only get tougher for the Browns' offense after playing an aggressive Steelers defense since they’ll now line up against a Titans defense that ranks 11th in points allowed per game (20) and 3rd in rushing yards allowed (65). In their 27-24 overtime win over the Chargers, the Titans’ defense was exposed quite but through the air, allowing Justin Herbert to throw for 305 yards and two touchdowns, but on the ground, they held LA to just 61 rushing yards.
Offensively, Ryan Tannehill and the Titans bounced back in a big way after failing to score a touchdown in week one. Since Tannehill threw three interceptions against the Saints, the Titans relied on Derrick Henry even more in week two, and it paid off since he went for 80 yards and a touchdown while opening the offense up for his quarterback, who finished the game with an 83.3% completion percentage.
Tennessee is currently listed at (+3.5) point underdogs, and I’ll be backing them for my play. While I may not fully trust the Titans' offense, I think they found what works for them in week two, which is to lean on the run game and let the field open a bit for Tannehill. Cleveland has yet to see a real running game through the first two weeks, so I think their rushing defense numbers don’t tell the full story, which could result in a big day for Henry.
The real advantage for the Titans in this game, though, comes on the defensive end. With Nick Chubb now out, the Browns will either need to rely on Watson to throw it more, or they will just lean on their young running back and Kareem Hunt. Whichever they decide gives Tennessee an advantage since the Titans' rush defense has been phenomenal, holding opponents to just 2.7 yards per carry.
Leaving the ball in Watson’s hands is not a good idea right now either since he’s got the 3rd worst passer rating (69.1) and the 4th worst time to throw average (3.03) in the league. With the Titans ranked 9th in sack percentage and Cleveland fresh off a game in which Watson was sacked six times, his indecisiveness could make this offense look ugly on Sunday.
Tennessee Titans (+3.5)