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Matchup to Watch

Matchup to Watch: Browns run D vs. NFL leading rusher Derrick Henry

Henry is the key to the Titans offense

Derrick Henry was the NFL's leading rusher in 2019, and through 12 weeks of the 2020 season, he is poised to go to back-to-back as the rushing champion. 

Henry has rushed for 1,257 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns in 11 games and is currently leading the league in rushing by 127 yards over Vikings RB Dalvin Cook and nearly 400 yards better than Jacksonville's James Robinson. Last week in the Titans' huge win over the Indianapolis Colts, Henry set the tone with three first half touchdowns en route to finishing with 27 carries for 178 yards and three scores. The week before, it was Henry who raced 29 yards for the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Baltimore Ravens. 

The Titans feel like he is the 2020 MVP and his case seems to grow each week. The Browns need to try to put a halt to that MVP campaign and contain Henry if they hope to take down the talented 8-3 Titans.

Let's not forget that it was Henry and the Titans who got the 2019 Browns season off on the wrong foot when they came to FirstEnergy Stadium and put a whooping on Cleveland. In that game, Henry ran 19 times for 84 yards and a touchdown and added a back-breaking 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The good news is that these are not the 2019 Browns, and the past, in this case, does not matter at all. This is a new era for the 8-3 Browns, who always seem to find a way to win under head coach Kevin Stefanski. This will be one of their toughest tasks in the second half of the season, and limiting Henry might be their toughest matchup task all year, too.

Henry is on a roll himself, having rushed for 100 yards in three straight games and five of the last seven, including games of 133, 178 and 212 yards. The Browns run defense has been up and down this year, but they have not faced anyone like Henry. For the year, the Browns are allowing 83.7 yards rushing per game on 4.09 yards per carry to opposing running backs, both the 10th-best marks in the league. Over the first five games of the season, no running back ran for even 60 yards against the Browns, who really bottled up opposing rushers. Over the last six games, however, the Browns have allowed three different 100-yard rushers. In Week 6, James Conner of the Steelers ran 20 times for 101 yards and a touchdown. In Week 8, Josh Jacobs ran 31 times for 129 yards in the Raiders' win over the Browns. Last week, Robinson of the Jags ran 22 times for 128 yards and a touchdown. The Browns went 1-2 in those three games when allowing a 100-yard rusher and will have to sell out to keep Henry under the century mark Sunday.  

In the Browns' favor is the fact that only running backs whose first names begin with the letter J have been able to get to 100 yards against them, and Henry's first name begins with the letter D. All kidding aside, two legitimate MVP candidates in Henry and Nick Chubb will take center stage in this playoff-level matchup Sunday. Whichever running back has the bigger day likely will go a long way to determining which team comes out with their ninth victory of the season.

Check out the best photos from the Browns win over the Jaguars yesterday by the Browns photo team

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