BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns enter week 7 still in search of their first win as they host the Tennessee Titans who begin a stretch of playing the entire AFC North over the next 4 weeks.
Cleveland looks to avoid going 0-7 for the fourth time – 2016 (0-14), 1999 (0-7), 1975 (0-9) – in franchise history.
Here’s what we’re watching for Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium:
QB Shuffle – Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer returns to the starting lineup after being benched at halftime Oct. 8 against the Jets. Kizer has thrown a league-high 9 interceptions — four in the red zone — while completing just 50.9 percent of his passes in his first 5 starts. With this latest swap, the Browns have changed quarterbacks 20 times in past 43 games, including 9 because of injury and 9 under head coach Hue Jackson.
Turn Him Loose – Myles Garret’s workload will increase for a third straight week since returning from a high ankle sprain that cost him the first 4 games of the season. Garrett recorded 2 sacks in 19 snaps Oct. 8 against the Jets in his NFL regular season debut and he played 33 snaps last week in Houston that saw him tally his team-leading third sack. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said this week they plan to “turn him loose” as the No. 1 pick continues to respond well.
Red Zone Blues – The Browns have matched their opponents trips into the red zone this season with 16 of them but the difference in production is staggering. Cleveland has allowed opponents to come away with points every time – 14 touchdowns and 2 field goals – while the Browns have scored just 9 times – 8 touchdowns and 1 field goal. Turnovers have killed the Browns – 6 plus a turnover on downs inside the 5 – inside the 20. It’ll be on Kizer to turn scoring opportunities into points.
Defense Optional? – We could have a good old fashioned shootout on our hands Sunday, which means points will probably be at a premium. The Browns are giving up 26.2 points per game on average which ranks 27th league-wide while Tennessee is allowing 27.3, ranking 31st out of 32 teams. It should be noted that the Titans gave up 57 in a loss at Houston on Oct. 1 that help skew the average.
Remember the Titans – A pair of former Titans would love to have a big day against their former team but they may not get the opportunity. Cornerback Jason McCourty suffered an ankle injury during practice Thursday and receiver Kenny Britt, who has missed the last 2 games with a knee and groin injury, are both questionable. McCourty signed a 2-year, $6 million deal as a free agent and has been one of the most productive players this season tallying 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 9 pass break-ups on defense. Conversely, Britt has been a major disappointment since getting a 4-year $32.5 million deal with $17 million guaranteed in the offseason. He’s caught just 8 of 23 targets for 121 yards and a touchdown this season and he’s had 2 passes bounce off of him and result in interceptions.
Late Surge – Cleveland is outscoring their opponents 50-13 in the final quarter and it is the only quarter in which they don’t trail. They’ve been outscored 31-10 in the first, 80-21 in the second and 33-13 in the third. That’s means they’ve been routed 144-44 through the first 3 quarters combined and the Browns enter the fourth trailing by an average of 16.6 points. The Browns’ 3 losses by 6 points has helped to cut their margin of defeat in 6 games to 10 1/2 points per game.
Titans Run v. Browns Run D – The Titans enter the game ranked sixth in rushing yards per game averaging 132.0 on the ground while Cleveland’s run defense is also ranked sixth limiting teams to 84.3 points per game. ProFootballFocus.com ranks defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah No. 2, defensive tackle Jamie Meder No. 2 and defensive tackle Danny Shelton No. 4 in the league against the run. They’ll be challenged by Titans running back Derrick Henry, who rushed for 131 yards on 19 carries against the Colts including a 72-yard TD run in the final minute.
Healthy Mariota – Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota returned after missing one game with hamstring injury and threw for 306 yards and a touchdown in the win over Indianapolis Monday night. He finished 23 of 32 to complete his fifth career fourth-quarter comeback in 32 starts.
Short Week – The Titans are coming off of a dramatic win over the Colts at home Monday night that saw them score 21 points in the fourth quarter to improve to 3-3 on the season. Maybe the Browns can take advantage of a tired Titans team.