4 key matchups for the Browns vs. the Titans

Jeff Risdon
·4 min read

It’s a matchup rife with AFC playoff implications when the Cleveland Browns visit the Tennessee Titans in Week 13. Both teams are 8-3 and jockeying for postseason position on the backs of strong running games and impressive young coaches.

The Browns have won three games in a row, but the Titans are also playing very well of late. For the Browns to win in Nashville, it will require a tight, focused effort and attention to executing the small details of a smart game plan.

Here are four key matchups in the Browns’ quest to go to 9-3 in Tennessee.

Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller vs. Jeffery Simmons and Daquan Jones

(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

This is a strength-on-strength matchup. Bitonio and Teller are arguably the best offensive guard duo in the NFL in 2020, with Bitonio leading all vote-getters in the Pro Bowl balloting at the position and Teller running away from the pack as the top-graded guard at Pro Football Focus. They get a real test in Tennessee in one of the best players you've likely not heard much about, Jeffery Simmons. He is one of the most effective all-around defensive tackles in the league. Simmons lines up on either side, frequently flipping spots with Jones, who is a solid second banana and one who understands his role well. Their ability to get pressure from the inside is key to Tennessee's pass defense. Simmons and Jones have combined for just 5.5 sacks, and the Titans EDGEs have been inconsistent. When teams have been able to create a solid pocket and throwing lanes, they have found success against the Titans via the air.

Terrance Mitchell vs. A.J. Brown

(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Brown announced his NFL presence with authority in the last meeting between the Browns and Titans. In his rookie debut, the talented wideout notched a 100-yard receiving effort against Denzel Ward and the Cleveland defense. Ward will miss this rematch, which leaves it up to Terrance Mitchell to try and contain one of the best young wideouts in the league. Brown has eight TDs in nine games. He's fantastic after the catch, too; ask the Colts... https://twitter.com/FOXBet/status/1333117168658116620?s=20 Mitchell has played well in 2020, but he's coming off a subpar outing against the Jaguars. And with Corey Davis growing into a reliable balancing threat for Brown, Cleveland can't cheat extra help Mitchell's way on the dynamic Brown, either.

Myles Garrett vs. David Quessenberry

(AP Photo/David Richard)

Garrett is back after a two-week absence due to COVID-19. He's itching to seize back his NFL sack lead, and he gets to do it against a left tackle making his second career start. David Quessenberry played well in his debut as a starter in Tennessee's Week 12 win over the Colts. And he's a great story to root for, even for Browns fans. But he is not Taylor Lewan, the regular Titans left tackle (on I.R.). He's not even Ty Sambrailo, Lewan's regular backup who is also on I.R. This is a matchup Garrett needs to thrive in, against both the run and the pass. Olivier Vernon needs to win the battles against steady but unspectacular RT Dennis Kelly on the other side, too.

Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant vs. Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro

(AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)

The Browns tight ends, primarily Hooper and Bryant but also David Njoku, should find a lot of success against the Titans safety tandem that has struggled all season to cover tight ends. With the Titans LBs focused on stopping the rushing attack, the play-action shots for Baker Mayfield to his tight ends figure to be open. And based on how the Titans have covered tight ends, they'll quite literally be open. Byard has surrendered a QB Rating of 130.4 on passes thrown his direction this year. Vaccaro is at 125.4 and, like Byard, is on the hook for three TD receptions. As a team, the Titans have allowed big games to opposing tight ends. Some recent examples: Week 9: Jimmy Graham, Bears - six catches on six targets, 55 yards, 1 TD, five first downs Week 10: Mo Alie-Cox and Trey Burton, Colts - six catches on seven targets, 43 yards, five first downs Week 11: Mark Andrews, Ravens - five catches on seven targets, 96 yards, 1 TD, five first downs Week 12: Alie-Cox and Burton, Colts - five catches on eight targets, 61 yards, 1 TD, four first downs Bryant had a rough Week 12, dropping a potential TD and fumbling his one catch away. Hooper was quiet (two catches, 13 yards) as well. They'll need to step up if the Browns are going to keep the Titans defense from loading up to stop the dynamic duo of Chubb and Hunt.