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In a teams battle with exacting 8-3 records, the Titans welcome the Browns to Nissan Stadium as both teams try to cement a place in the crowded AFC playoff picture.
The Titans are currently ranked as the No. 3 seed while the Browns are two slots below at No. 5.
This should be a fun free-flowing game as seen in the total – temperatures should be around 49 degrees with 4 mph winds and no precipitation in the forecast. Both teams are allowing at least 25.9 points per game, which creates some favorable prop opportunities for over-fans.
This game will be a good test for the Browns as they try to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
They should have some opportunities to move the ball against a Titans team that, surprisingly, is ranked 28th in the Football Outsiders defensive DVOA despite their record high. The Titans will need to be at their best to cover Nick Chubb, who is averaging 6.3 yards per rushing attempt.
Chubb has rushed for more than 114 yards over his last three games and more than 100 yards in five of the seven games he has played this season. Perhaps even more impressive is that Chubb leads the NFL with 10 rushes of 20 yards or more.
The Browns will want to continue to get enough touchdowns for Chubb while Baker Mayfield essentially acts as a game manager. Mayfield has had less than 30 passing attempts in each of his last six games, so there seems to be a concerted effort to limit his throws to avoid any costly turnover.
In 2019, Mayfield averaged 33.4 pass attempts per game with a 22-for-21 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In 2020, he is averaging 26.7 attempts and has a 17-to-7 TD-to-INT ratio.
That said, I expect Mayfield to have a decent game on Sunday, especially considering the Titans pass defense ranks 27th in DVOA and 28th in the league with 268.5 yards allowed per game. They are also ranked 27th with a defensive drive success rate (DSR) of 78%, which conveys the percentage of lower series that end in either first downs or touchdowns.
If you’ve watched the Titans play this season, you already know that they almost never come off the field at third down position. Per TeamRankings, they have died last in allowing opponents to convert on third down at a rate of 52.6%. That can be heartbreaking for any defense, but especially against the Browns: They have a swap of money on their drives once inside the red zone, converting 68.6% of their chances into touchdowns, seventh in the league.
Not bad for Mayfield and Co.
In terms of injury, the Browns will be without starting wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge due to a hamstring injury. Backup wide receiver Taywan Taylor is also out with a neck injury, along with starting fullback Denzel Ward. Backup center Nick Harris and backup defensive lineman Vincent Taylor are both skeptical after being limited participants in practice this week.
The Titans will hire a Browns team that, despite their 8-3 start, ranks 31st in the strength of the schedule per TeamRankings.com. Last week, the Browns managed to hang on for a 27-25 victory over the lowly Jaguars. But seven of the Browns’ eight wins have come against teams with record-breaking losses heading into Week 13.
The Titans could be in line for a decent offensive day against a 19th-ranked Browns defense at DVOA. Cleveland allows opponents four red zone opportunities per game, which could be disastrous against a fifth-ranked Tennessee team with a 72.73% turnaround rate.
DVOA shows little difference between Cleveland’s pass defense versus its run defense. Defensively, the Browns are in 23rd position in passing DVOA and 20th in rushing DVOA.
Their defense is below average in both areas, which could cause some headaches against a Titans team that is third in offensive DVOA. Tennessee fans will be hoping this plays out as one of the pick-your-own adventure novels because there are multiple ways for the Titans to pick up points.
And you can’t forget Ryan Tannehill, who is fifth in the league with a 76.7 mark in ESPN’s QBR Totals and holds a 23-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio.
If that’s not enough, All-Pro running back Derrick Henry can also make opposing teams pay with his 4.9 yards per carry. Henry is also second in the NFL with eight carries of 20 yards or more this season.
The Titans remain without cornerback Adoree ‘Jackson, though he was activated from the IR. Jackson hasn’t played a snap yet due to injuring his knee in their season opener.
Defensive end Jeffery Simmons is also on the injury report due to a knee injury. After being a limited participant in practice on Thursday, Simmons did not practice on Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday.
On offense, starting tight end Jonnu Smith will also be out due to a knee injury while left guard Rodger Saffold III is listed as a suspicious (ankle) though not practicing this week.
The Browns come into this game a little thin on a wide receiver, which could put even more emphasis on their running game.
With Chubb accumulating 6.3 yards per carry, I’m confident Cleveland can run the ball on this Tennessee defense. The Titans’ problems on third down could also come back to bite him given Chubb’s effectiveness. If the Browns are to have any hope of winning on Sunday, they will need to jump on Chubb’s back and control the time of possession.
I like the over on Chubb rushing yards. I also like him as a touchdown scorer anytime. We will play his rushing yards over up to 87.
PICK: Nick Chubb Over 85.5 Rush Yard