The Cleveland Browns-Tennessee Titans game will be a matchup of—running backs? The often devalued position will take center stage Sunday when the Browns’ Nick Chubb and the Titans’ Derrick Henry both attempt to carry their respective teams to victory.
The Titans are favored in this contest, according to the latest odds at BetOnline. But the Browns, largely powered by Chubb, can go toe-to-toe with the hosting team—in the backfield, at least. Cleveland and Tennessee have the first- and second-best rushing attacks in the NFL, respectively. Chubb, in his third season with the Browns, is on pace to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards for the second consecutive year despite missing six weeks with an MCL sprain. He was one of the league’s best rushers at the time and still within the top 10 after returning in Week 10. In the three games since, he’s had more than 100 yards in each contest and two rushing touchdowns.
This pales in comparison to Henry, who can move mountains to create space. He leads the league in rushing yards (1,257) and rushing attempts (256). Henry is having such a productive season he’s on pace to have a career year. He’s a longshot for the NFL’s MVP award, almost already minted for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and obviously the Titans’ most valuable player with quarterback Ryan Tannehill a close second. But Chubb is the unwritten reason behind the Browns’ success—even if others will have you looking elsewhere.
“I know everybody is going to want to say it is all about these running backs—the three of them, they are extremely special; do not get me wrong—but this is a great game and great teams,” Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield told NFL media Wednesday. “It is going to be all three phases against each other. We are going to have to play complementary football and play as a team to win this game. It is going to be a physical one. We said our identity on offense starts in the run game, and we know that so that is what we are worried about.”
Mayfield isn’t entirely wrong, but we’re likely not watching the game for anything or anyone else, particularly Mayfield’s hot-and-cold quarterbacking. The Browns are in contention because of the work of Chubb and what he’s allowed Mayfield to do in the passing game by opening up the rest of the field.
While Tennessee has the power of Henry, Cleveland has the power of numbers. Both Chubb and Kareem Hunt have more than 700 rushing yards; Hunt picked up the bulk of his filling in for Chubb. Both teams have middling defenses. In order for the Browns to pull off the upset, they’ll need to hold Henry under his NFL-leading average (of 114.3 yards per game) while getting better play from Mayfield.
“I’m going to be hard on myself because these moments here down the stretch when you have to make every play count, especially in a game like this where it’s going to be two strong rushing attacks,” Mayfield said. “You don’t know how many series you’re going to get, so we have to make these count.”
While the game will be decided on the ground, the Browns can put a stamp on their deceivingly successful season and break what seemed like a never-ending postseason drought—thanks to Chubb (and a little bit of Mayfield).
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022