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Cleveland Browns vs. Tennessee Titans Game Preview

Who: Tennessee Titans 

When: September 20 (Sunday, 1 PM)

Where: FirstEnergy Stadium 

Series history (Last meeting): 34-28 (Browns 29, Titans 28 in 2014 at LP Field)

The coach: Ken Whisenhunt   

The stakes: Tennessee may have extra motivation in this Week 2 matchup after the Browns pulled off the largest road comeback victory (25 points) in NFL history last season. Two Travis Benjamin touchdown grabs still have his jersey front and center at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Matchup to watch: Titans defensive line vs. Browns offense line. Tennessee defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is regarded as an upcoming star player but last season against Cleveland he was held without a tackle. The Browns were able to own the line of scrimmage in the second half, a factor that fueled the record comeback. Tennessee will have to generate pressure on Alex Mack and company and stop the Isaiah Crowell-Terrance West-Duke Johnson running combination all four quarters, especially in front of a hostile Dawg Pound. 


Offseason storyline: Landing a big fish. The Titans believe No.2 overall pick Marcus Mariota can become the quarterback to deliver success to Nashville. He's accurate, athletic and intelligent. But is a he a field general who can rally the troops when the moment calls for it? Experts are split whether Mariota will have a season full of growing pains, or fix the Titans right away.

Biggest addition: CB Perrish Cox. The Browns themselves were reported to have flirted with the former 49ers defensive back. In his first season with regular playing time, Cox picked off five passes in 2014. If he can bring that type of legitimacy to Tennessee's secondary, the Titans might win more games than people think.

He gone: QB Jake Locker. The No.8 overall pick from the 2011 draft abruptly retired from football in March. Locker threw 27 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in four rocky, injury-filled seasons with the Titans.

The star: DL Jurrell Casey. Behind J.J. Watt and Sheldon Richardson, Pro Football Focus ranks Casey as the third-best pass rushing defensive end in the NFL. Casey's a rare defensive lineman who has the speed to play sideline-to-sideline, registering 68 tackles and 5 sacks last season. The third-round pick from USC has emerged as a major steal for the Titans. 

The X-Factor: WR Kendall Wright. He's a very good player who could become a stud if Mariota steps in and performs. The 25-year-old Baylor alum had 57 receptions last season for six touchdowns. He's shifty with the ball in his hands and can run deep routes with the best of them. 

They'll make the playoffs if...: Mariota wins the Offensive Rookie of the Year; if the Colts and Texans surprisingly don't play well and if the defense is a top-10 unit in the league.

The season will go south in a hurry if...: Mariota struggles adapting to operating out of a huddle; if the secondary regularly allows 300 yards passing and if running back Bishop Sankey doesn't improve on 3.7 yards per carry.

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