Just 28 games into his NFL career, A.J. Brown has quickly established himself in Nashville as the Tennessee Titans’ No. 1 receiver. In seven of those 28 appearances, Brown has gone for 100 yards or more. It should be noted that his first game in the NFL, and first ever 100-yard performance came against the same Cleveland Browns team that the Titans will be hosting on Sunday.

Brown has had a nose for the endzone in 2020 with nine total touchdowns in the same amount of games. His most unique score of the season – and his career thus far – came in last week’s win over the Indianapolis Colts by snatching on onside kick out of the air and returning it 42 yards to the house to put the cherry on top of the Titans’ biggest win of the season.

While Brown has been a godsend for fantasy owners, he has been a complete nightmare for secondaries around the NFL. That trend has a decent chance to continue when the Titans and Browns duke it out on Sunday in a battle of two 8-3 teams.

On paper, the Browns secondary has performed fairly well this season. Although they are 20th in the league in pass defense, the Browns have only allowed three receivers to reach the century mark in a single game this season.

Cornerback Denzel Ward has played a large part in bottling up opposing pass catchers, ranking second in the NFL with 15 passes defensed. For perspective, Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler ranks eighth with 11 passes defensed.

On a defense with supremely talented individuals such as Myles Garrett, Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon and others, Ward might just be the most important piece. It is for this reason that his absence on Sunday could mean the difference in the outcome.

Ward is battling with a calf strain that is expected to sideline the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. With Ward unavailable, cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell and Kevin Johnson will shoulder the defense’s responsibilities on the perimeter.

Not only will Ward miss this Week 13 matchup, but safety Ronnie Harrison has just landed on Cleveland’s Injured Reserve list. Not to mention, the Brown’s second-round choice out of LSU in 2019, Greedy Williams, will also be unable to suit up on Sunday as he is dealing with nerve damage in his shoulder.

There is no team in the NFL that will enter Week 13 at full strength. The Browns, while decimated by injuries in the secondary, will get no sympathy from the Titans after having key players miss time throughout the season.

After already having success against the Brown’s team, Obi Juan Kenobi appears to be in line for yet another monster performance. Brown has flourished against the AFC North this season with three touchdowns and nearly 80 yards per game against the Ravens, Bengals, and Steelers.

 

Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press/A.J. Mast


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