The amount of hype surrounding this game, mainly due to the Cleveland Browns, was palpable going into Sunday. The NFL had their A-team of announcers, Tony Romo and Jim Nantz, ready to excite the masses and thoughtfully explain the shiny and new offense of the Browns. Instead, they watched a low scoring game for the larger part of three quarters, until the Titans stomped the Browns into submission. Those who bought into the Baker Mayfield - Odell Beckham Jr. connection were left wanting.
While the final score of 43-13 gives images of a bloodbath, the reality is the score was 22-13 at the end of the third quarter. The true embarrassment and unraveling of the Browns came in the fourth quarter, when turnovers and penalties brought them to their knees.
I sifted through the fog of the 43-13 finish to find the strengths and weaknesses of the fantasy relevant players - here is what I found:
Baker Mayfield, QB
- The Titans’ defensive scheme befuddled Mayfield and the Browns’ coaching staff. Coverages and pressure forced Mayfield to panic, hold onto the ball, force throws, and lock in on receivers - telegraphing his passes. These mistakes turned into Mayfield making several throws off of his back foot, falling away from pressure, as well as taking sacks and missing open receivers.
- Flourished when pressure came from the outside, enabling Mayfield to scramble, throwing on the run, or setting his feet outside of the pocket.
- Clearly force-fed Beckham Jr.
- Three interceptions were all caused by bad decisions on Mayfield’s part.
- Lack of pocket awareness led to safety in the second quarter.
- Hand injury occurred during this sack, but did not seem to affect future throws.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR
- Looked explosive, healthy, and dangerous.
- Showed phenomenal route running, specifically on comeback routes, which Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception shows Beckham posted a 90% success rate in last year.
- Seemed to have great on-field chemistry with Mayfield - amounting in 11 targets.
- Clear offensive scheme to get Beckham the ball in space as much as possible.
- Mayfield forced the ball to Beckham when other receivers were open - good for Beckham, possibly bad for the overall offense.
Nick Chubb, RB
- Suffered behind an abysmal offensive line.
- Never given a carry inside the five yard line. Granted there were only two such opportunities, one went to Dontrell Hilliard for a touchdown, the other was an empty backfield set.
- First time given two rushes in a row did not come until the third quarter, with ten minutes remaining - the score was 15-6 Titans at this point. This is particularly worrisome, seeing as the Browns never truly tried to establish the run, even when the game was close.
- Showed ability, patience, and explosiveness when given the opportunity.
- Best run of the day came when Browns called a run play to the right side as the Titans blitzed the left. Showing that success came only when the Titans made a mistake.
David Njoku, TE
- Looked very slow.
- Ran extremely sloppy routes.
- Dropped multiple passes.
- Terrible decision making. Collected 18 penalties for 182 yards.
- The offensive line was horrendous, mainly RT Chris Hubbard and LT Greg Robinson - hampering the passing and running attack.
- Robinson was ejected for kicking a player in the face, adding to an already diminished offensive front, due to OG Austin Corbett and OG Wyatt Teller being inactive.
- Mayfield turnovers ruined a strong effort from Browns’ defense - especially their front seven. The linebackers stifled the Titans’ running attack for most of the game.
- Notable snap percentages
- Jarvis Landry and Beckham Jr. - 100%
- Nick Chubb - 70%
- David Njoku - 90%
Marcus Mariota, QB
- The Titans utilized Mariota’s mobility on several bootlegs, moving him away from pressure and buying him time. He had much more success rolling to his right compared to his left, where he missed Corey Davis due to an inaccurate pass.
- Looks uncomfortable withstanding pressure while inside the pocket. Seems unable to slide away from pressure within the pocket, leading him to panic, either scrambling outside of the pocket or fading backward until he throws off of his back foot.
- 75 of his passing yards came from a screen play to Derrick Henry, where the Browns bit on the fake, leaving Henry and his escort of offensive linemen to steamroll to the end zone.
- Showed chemistry with rookie A.J. Brown, connecting twice for plays over 45 yards.
Derrick Henry, RB
- Titans offensive scheme is built around Henry, although Dion Lewis will continue to take the lion’s share of passing downs.
- Great vision, cutting back when available, taking advantage of the few opportunities the Browns’ front seven allowed.
- Lacked success early on, but head coach Mike Vrabel continued to feed Henry.
- Screen pass for a touchdown was a mix of a great play call, great execution, and tremendous speed from Henry.
- When the game was out of hand, Henry was trusted to run out the clock, leading to garbage time yardage.
A.J. Brown, WR
- Showed tremendous promise and terrific route running on deep routes, as well as shallow slants.
- Mariota targeted him three times in the first 20 minutes. Incorporating the rookie during the first few drives of the season shows trust.
- Gives Titans a legitimate deep threat with ability after the catch.
- Davis was ultimately an afterthought.
- Delanie Walker looked as healthy and quick as ever.
- Both touchdowns came on play-action passes where Walker feigned blocking before running his route.
- Led the team with six targets.
- Produced with low snap percentage.
- Adam Humphries, while not relevant to fantasy, looked extremely quick and ran very crisp routes.
- Defense looked phenomenal
- Ran mostly zone coverages (Cover-2/Cover-3)
- Made basic zone become exotic by disguising the coverages pre-snap, while also blitzing out of Cover-2, which is extremely rare. These things combined crippled the Browns’ offense.
- Made Browns pay for mistakes, including three touchdowns following Mayfield interceptions.
- Notable snap percentages
- Henry - 59%
- Lewis - 43%
- Davis - 74%
- Brown - 43%
- Walker - 48%
My one true worry is the Browns’ offensive line. Their inability to protect Mayfield and create running room for Chubb is a problem. The hope is the Titans’ defense will be one of the tougher matchups on the season for Cleveland, leading to easier sledding for their offensive unit.
Other than this: Do not overreact.
Do not overreact. Mayfield disappointed, which means Beckham Jr. did as well. The offensive line is a disaster. There are reasons to panic if you are the Browns organization. But in the fantasy world, do not take this information and then turn it into a trade where you sell your assets at their lowest value. Hold steady and trust in the talent at hand.
Do not overreact. Mariota’s stat line of 248 passing yards and three touchdowns looks enticing, but in reality, these numbers are padded by timely turnovers from Mayfield, leading to a short field and scores for the Titans. Let Mariota remain a free agent or backup on your bench.