Browns/Titans Match-Ups For Keys To Victory Week 3

September 23, 2023

Andy Billman Tony Camino

Cleveland Browns vs. Tennesee Titans Matchups to Watch:

1 – Deshuan Watson vs. Ryan Tannehill


This should be an obvious advantage for the Browns, QB Deshaun Watson should have a considerable advantage. Yet, this match-up with Ryan Tannehill does not feel like much of an upper hand for Cleveland.

On Sunday, Watson has an excellent opportunity to make a statement in Berea, to the NFL, and the Browns fanbase. It will not be easy with the physicality of the Titans, but Brown’s defense will be able to contain Tannehill, and I doubt he will do much in this game.  Watson has historically done well against the Titans, all good things for number four.  Call me crazy; don’t be surprised if Watson goes off in this game.

One side note: Watson can not turn over the ball in this game, as no doubt Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel will preach about how Watson has been turnover-prone in the first two games.  The Titans will be ball-hawking on Sunday.


Two weeks into the season, this is a closer matchup than many anticipated. When Deshaun Watson is on and gets going, it’s not even close, but their numbers to start 2023 are similar. Both rank in the bottom ten in EPA/play and completion percentage over expected. Historically, Ryan Tannehill is fine; he’s going to keep the Titans in this one but isn’t likely to put them on his back. Forcing him into more throwing situations so he cannot just lean on his defense and run game is essential in this one.

Although the numbers are very close to starting the year, the advantage still goes to Watson because of his rushing upside. He also has the matchup advantage, as the Titans’ pass defense is significantly worse than the rushing defense so far. The Browns’ defense all-around will be a very tough challenge for Tannehill, and Sunday is a good chance for Watson to really get things going in the right direction. Despite a bad stretch to start his Browns’ career, this matchup is still advantageous for Watson heading into Sunday.

2 – Browns OL vs. Titans DL 


Following a game where the Steelers found ways to create pressure early and often, the pass-rushing trio of Jeffrey Simmons, Arden Key, and Denico Autry will not be a walk in the park. All three Titans pass rushers rank in the top 30 in pass rush win rate among those who have played 50% of snaps, and two crack the top 20. The Browns’ pass blocking has been solid for the most part, with most of the struggles coming against simulated pressures and other packages that require adjustments on the fly. Dawand Jones had a solid first game against TJ Watt, but he and Jedrick Wills need consistency on the edges to help concepts develop on the backend.

In the run game, the Titans have been stronger against the run than the pass. With the loss of the most efficient back in the game, the offensive line has the task of setting the tempo in the run game. While I expect the Browns to shift to a team that uses the pass to open up the run, the run game is essential to put games away. The offensive line has to step up in multiple facets to help get this offense back on track, but the Titans aren’t the easiest opponents for them.


It has not been a fun week for the Browns offensive line, as they had a rare bad performance against the Steelers.  The tackles in Jedrick Wills Jr. and rookie Dawand Jones have received reasons to worry about both being able to handle the tackle position on the line.  What was once seen before the season as a strength today feels like more questions than answers to the offensive line’s confidence. Much focus will be on Watson’s performance, but I will also put Wills on notice.

Tennessee features two studs, Denico Autry and Jeffery Simmons, who will put pressure on the line to be able to perform.  I believe the Titans will try to take away the Brown’s running game to force the Browns to pass as much as possible.  The Browns should add an extra blocking tight end to help get RB Jerome Ford out in the open field.

3 – Browns passing game vs. Titans passing defense


Remember what we just wrote above about Watson? This is also an opportunity for Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, as the Titans rank very poorly in defensive pass coverage, as Tony will speak about below in depth.  Stefanski should be able to draw up favorable matchups all day against Tennessee.

Cleveland has offensive weapons; it is time to exploit what the Browns can do.

It is time for the wide receivers Elijah Moore and Donovan Peoples-Jones to break out and make some catches.  Also, have yet to see much of TE David Njoku, and it would be good to see him make some plays.  Njoku is talented and, in two games, has played very tight in the first two games.

WR Amari Cooper did have a good game on Monday Night, and Watson mentioned in his weekly press conference that the two are in a good grove, and he’s correct; hopefully, more of that on Sunday.

Finally, if Kareem Hunt plays on Sunday, as we all know, he can be an excellent receiving back and create space—time to unleash Hunt.


The Titans rank in the bottom ten in passing EPA/play, and they are dead last in passing yards allowed per game. Their run defense is where they excel this year, but there is a significant opportunity to take advantage of the Titans’ defense on the backend. The Titans play man coverage around 30% of the time, and nobody in their secondary has been performing well outside of safety Kevin Byard in man coverage. Their zone defense isn’t much better, but it might be where the Titans go when they aren’t bringing pressure.

Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore should have no issue creating separation against this Titans’ secondary, and I could see another big day for the Cooper and Watson connection. It will be interesting to see how committed Kevin Stefanski is to the spread offense, as putting Watson in the shotgun and airing it out has been his best recipe for success. Some shots to Marquise Goodwin have been there, so don’t be surprised if they connect on a home run ball or two.

4 – Derrick Henry vs. Browns rush defense


The Titans’ offense has gotten off to a slow start, and they are still looking to lean on Derrick Henry as they’ve done in the past. This isn’t the same Browns’ defensive line of old, however, and I think they should be able to hold him under 100 yards easily, as long as he doesn’t break a long one. Myles Garrett noted how difficult it is to tackle Henry, and this will be a good chance to see how good this run defense is.

The Titans’ offense takes the same approach the Browns have in recent years: lean on Henry to dominate, shorten the game, and let the passing game open up off it. If the Browns can neutralize Henry and not allow him to dominate, the Titans’ offense should be in for a very long day at Cleveland Browns Stadium.


Plain and simple, this is where the Browns would melt in the past, as Cleveland has had difficulty stopping powerful running backs that run up the middle.  Enter Titan RB Derrick Henry to test the Browns running game defense in 2023. 

So far, so good in 2023 as they have not allowed the Steelers or the Bengals to run wild, and the Browns were especially good in Pittsburgh against the run, only giving up 55 yards on Monday Night; that is a huge accomplishment for this team.  This, to me, is the real test; if this defense can contain the powerful Henry, the sky is the limit for this defense, as the Titans will rely on Henry to win the game for them on the ground.

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