The Tennessee Titans are sitting comfortably at five games above .500 in week 12.
It’s not often we see that of this team. It’s also extremely rare to see their opponents in that same position this late in the season.
Their opponents are the Cleveland Browns. They are 8-3. That’s peak 2020 for you.
Even though they have a poor reputation, they are not a team to sleep on. Let’s take a look at where both teams stand and what needs to happen Sunday for the Titans to win.
TITANS HAVE DOMINATED THE SERIES RECENTLY
The Cleveland Browns lead the all-time series when you factor in the Houston Oilers. However, since residing in Nashville, the Tennessee Titans have only lost to the Browns five times in 15 games.
That may not read very promising to Browns fans, but an interesting fact is that three of the five wins over the Titans since 1999 have come in Nashville.
The Titans have found it rather simple to score on the Browns in that timespan, though. In all but three of the 15 games since 1999, the Titans have scored 20+ points on the Browns.
Eight of those 15 contests were double-digit wins for the Titans as well.
The Titans have practically owned the Browns recently. They hope to continue that trend this Sunday in a must-win AFC contest.
RUNNING BACKS GALORE
The Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns love to run the ball.
The Titans have the NFL’s leading rusher, Derrick Henry, in the backfield. He is fresh off a 178 yard and three touchdown performance versus the Indianapolis Colts.
Henry has run for over 100 yards in his last three games, and December is usually a month of dominance for him in his career.
Meanwhile, on the other side, the Browns bring in two running backs who are top 10 in the NFL. That is insane.
Nick Chubb is sixth in the NFL with 719 yards, and Kareem Hunt is ninth in the NFL with 706 yards.
Consequently, the Titans and Browns have the top two rushing offenses in the NFL. The Browns are first at 161.4 yards per game, and the Titans are second at 158.2 yards per game.
The Titans offense overall comes in at ninth, putting up 385.7 yards per game. The Titans score 29.5 points per game which ranks them fifth in that category. Meanwhile, Cleveland allows 26 points per game, which ranks them 21st in the NFL.
The Titans’ offense can beat you in multiple ways. Not only can Derrick Henry run you over, but they have playmakers in A.J. Brown and Corey Davis.
Cleveland ranking as high as they are in rushing yards per game, but so low in passing yards per game (30th), shows one-dimensionality. However, much like Tennessee, if the Browns can get a run game going they can beat you with play-action.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Sunday’s game is crucial for the Tennessee Titans to stay atop the AFC South and in control of their own destiny. Here are three things they can do to win this game.
FORCE BAKER TO BEAT YOU
As I said before, the Browns being number one in the NFL in rushing offense but 30th in passing offense is a telltale sign of a one-dimensional offense. It’s also indicative of Baker Mayfield as a quarterback.
In 2019’s beatdown on the Browns, the Titans forced the ball in Mayfield’s hands and confused him. He ended up throwing three interceptions.
They’ll need to do that again and to do so, they have to keep Nick Chubb and/or Kareem Hunt in check. Easier said than done.
SLOW DOWN THE RUN GAME
This goes hand-in-hand with the first key. You won’t be successful in the previous key without this one. But, again, it’s easier said than done.
Stopping one running back has proven to be hard enough for the Titans rush defense, which ranks 17th in the NFL. So stopping two might be a bit of a challenge.
FLEX YOUR HENRY MUSCLES
I feel like every time I do this, one key to the game is always to feed Henry. That’s because when Henry gets going, the Titans’ offense is hard to stop.
The Titans need to show they have the better running back and establish the run game. That will open up the play-action and produce points, as it always has this season.
This is significant this week, because playing with a lead will force Cleveland to put the ball in Baker Mayfield’s hands more often, and that’s what you want.
The Tennessee Titans are the class of the AFC South right now, and they have a golden opportunity to showcase that in probably the biggest game in AFC this week. A win is crucial, and their strengths play well into Cleveland’s weaknesses.
Featured image by Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports