After the atrocity that was Monday Night Football, Sunday can not come early enough for the Cleveland Browns. As the Browns attempt to put the painful loss of Nick Chubb and losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers behind them, all of their focus goes towards their next opponent the Tennessee Titans. The Titans come to the shores of Lake Erie mirroring the home team's 1-1 record.
Tennessee poses a similar threat to what Cleveland faced in Pittsburgh Monday night. Mike Vrabel’s team is a physical squad that will attempt to beat you with a stout defense and a punishing running game. If the Browns are going to notch their second win of this young season, it will take 60 minutes of focus and discipline to put the Titans away.
Here are four matchups that could decide the game for the Browns in week three
Matchup No. 4: Denzel Ward vs Deandre Hopkins
The Browns defense has been stellar through their two games in 2023. Jim Schwartz’ unit has only given up three field goals and one lone touchdown in two games. Neither of the Browns opponents have even sniffed the red zone.
In a league where the rules are tilted in favor of offense and scoring, Schwartz has this defense playing like it’s the early 2000s. A huge part of their success has been the outstanding play of their defensive backs, with Denzel Ward headlining the unit. The Browns will need Ward to maintain his level of play as he matches up with four-time All-Pro Deandre Hopkins.
Hopkins is on his third team in four seasons and is no longer regarded as one of the league’s most dangerous wide receivers. However, Hopkins isn't a player that Ward and the Browns can afford to sleep on. Through two games, Hopkins leads the Titans in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.
The Titans are not an incredibly pass heavy offense, but in critical situations Ryan Tannenhill will look in Hopkins’ direction when they need a big play. Ward’s ability to stay sticky in man coverage on Hopkins could thwart Tennessee’s ability to convert third downs with any consistency. With an offense still looking to find itself, Ward and defense need to facilitate their growth by forcing as many punts as possible on Sunday.