Meeting Marcus Mariota’s Marauding Men: Browns-Titans Preview

Every time I think about the 2017 Cleveland Browns (0-6) I think of a particular scene from “Seinfeld.” It’s from the season seven episode “The Engagement;” George and Jerry are sitting in the coffee shop discussing some banal topic when Jerry finally reaches his breaking point:

“What is this? What are we doing? What in God’s name are we doing?” Jerry asks. The two commiserate over the fact that they are simply tall children pretending to be men.

Part of me really hopes that the Harvard Brain Trust opens every meeting with this Seinfeld clip because it feels more and more like every game should begin with it too. What are the Browns doing? The Tennessee Titans (3-3) will come to visit on Sunday so let’s see if we can’t find out.

Are the Browns Favored?

Not even a little bit. The Titans open as 5.5 point favorites over the Browns despite playing on the road. This marks the third straight week the Browns will play as underdogs.

All-Time Series

Dating back to the Houston Oilers Era, Cleveland leads the series 35-30. The Oilers relocated to Tennessee in 1997 and changed their moniker to “Titans” in 1999. Since the Browns’ resurrection that same year, the Titans lead 8-5. From 1999-2002 the Browns and Titans both played in the AFC Central Division; the alignment shifted in 2002 when the Houston Texans emerged. Sunday marks the fourth straight year in which these teams clashed; Cleveland won in 2014 and 2015 while Tennessee won last year. The Titans enjoy the unfortunate distinction of losing to a Johnny Manziel led team.

Titans 2017

The Titans have played hot-and-cold football through the season’s first six games. The club lost to Oakland, Houston, and Miami and triumphed over Jacksonville, Seattle, and most recently Indianapolis in a Monday Night Football game. The Titans offense ranks 11th in the League while their defense ranks 31st. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has started five of the Titans six games completing 89-of-142 passes for 1,098 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions. The third year signal caller from Oregon intends to lead his young club into the playoffs for the first time since 2008. DeMarco Murray (313 yards, two touchdowns) and Derrick Henry (318 yards, two scores) offer a ground game. Receiver Rishard Matthews has pulled down 24 catches for 353 yards and a TD. When not appearing on his family’s E! reality show, receiver Eric Decker has caught 23 passes for 223 yards.

Writers should always avoid making large judgments based on small sample sizes. That being said, let’s talk about Myles Garrett. The rookie has appeared in the past two games and has so far recorded three sacks and four tackles. The early returns appear promising, and it’s reasonable to expect him to continue to grow and affect games as he gets more familiar in an NFL backfield.

Boy that Kevin Hogan sure did…play quarterback last week, didn’t he? The Stanford QB received his first NFL start and responded by going 20-of-37 passing for 140 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. Despite the large number of attempts, Hogan’s passes averaged 3.78 yards per catch. Now he appears to be nursing injured ribs and the team lists him as Doubtful to play against Tennessee. Welcome back DeShone Kizer. Maybe a week of was just what the doctor ordered for the rookie. Theoretically he stands a decent chance at success when facing the second worst defense in the league. Of course, he is also leading the second worst offense.

At this point in the season the Browns may be looking for any kind of advantage or leg up in these games. Perhaps the schedule can lend a hand. The Titans played on Monday night which means they are on a slightly shorter week in terms of preparation, film, and rest. That argument is not exactly Tom Cruise closing an case but it’s something. It seems more and more like this Browns team has a very low win ceiling, perhaps one or two. If that is accurate, then I hope that maybe this week the club can notch that first “W” at home