Writer: Chris Markoch
Game: Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns
Summary: A team that “takes on the character of their coach” can be an overused phrase, but I think it applies to the Tennessee Titans. In their first year under their head coach, former Ohio State, and New England Patriot linebacker Mike Vrabel, the Titans exhibited toughness and a commitment to running the football.
Last year, the Titans put both qualities on display in a 34-10 win over Vrabel’s former squad, the New England Patriots on November 11, 2018. Unfortunately, despite finishing with a 9-7 record, the Titans fell just short of the playoffs.
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The Cleveland Browns also knocked on the door of the playoffs last year. The Browns 7-8-1 record included a 5-3 record after a mid-season coaching change that included current head coach Freddie Kitchens being promoted to offensive coordinator.
Both teams come into the 2019 season with high expectations and a sense of unfinished business.
When the Titans come into First Energy Stadium, they will do so without starting left tackle Taylor Lewan who will be serving the first of his four-game suspension. Football is a game of matchups and the absence of Lewan sets up what I think will be a favorable matchup for the Browns front four versus the Titans offensive line.
The Browns were already an improved team against the run before the addition of Sheldon Richardson to pair with Larry Ogunjobi. With Richardson in the lineup, put me in the camp of believing that the Browns get the better of this matchup. That means that at some point, the Titans will have to throw to win and that is not a winning scenario.
I expect the Titans defense to present some problems for a Browns offense that is rested, but not necessarily ready for a season opener. Truthfully, I don’t know what to expect from the Browns on offense.
However, in the end, talent wins out. For the first time in a long time, I believe the Browns are the more talented team on both sides of the ball. Last year, the Cleveland Browns snapped their opening day losing streak with an unsatisfying – and ultimately significant, tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This year, they snap the winless streak.
Prediction: Cleveland 23, Tennessee 13