The numbers speak for themselves: 13-for-16, 209 yards, and four touchdowns. Marcus Mariota was nearly perfect in his first NFL game, and on Sunday he’ll be hoping to build on that in a battle with the Cleveland Browns.
Game Information: Tennessee Titans (1-0) @ Cleveland Browns (0-1)
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio
Time: Sunday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m.
Where to watch: CBS
Keys to victory for Cleveland:
It’s likely that Mariota won’t be as effective in game two, especially considering that the Browns should prove to be stronger defensively than Tampa Bay did. Last season, the Buccaneers gave up more passing yards than all but four teams, finishing No. 28 in the league. The Browns finished No. 8 in fewest yards allowed through the air.
That was last year, though. This season, the Browns allowed 31 points to a very pedestrian New York Jets offense in week one. If Titans fans remember Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s uninspiring stint in Nashville, they should know that Cleveland will need to improve if they hope to slow down Mariota. If the Browns want to pick up their first win, they’ll need to figure something out quickly.
Keys to victory for Tennessee:
Of course, the Browns boast a former Heisman-winning quarterback of their own. Johnny Manziel, starting in place of a concussed Josh McCown, hasn’t yet lived up to the potential he showed in his college career at Texas A&M, but he’s still a dangerous player with the ability to make things happen with his feet. Tennessee’s defense sacked Jameis Winston four times last week, and they’ll be trying to do the same to the more elusive Manziel.
If Derrick Morgan, Jurrell Casey and the rest of the Tennessee defense can keep Manziel from doing something like this, the Titans should be in good shape:
Matchup to Watch: Marcus Mariota vs. Joe Haden
With all due respect to Tampa Bay cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner, neither are on the level of Joe Haden. A two-time Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro selection, Haden should spend a lot of time on Tennessee’s leading receiver, Kendall Wright. Wright caught four passes for 101 yards and a touchdown last week against a much weaker Tampa Bay secondary. If Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt can find ways to get Wright away from Haden, things will get a lot easier for Mariota. If not, Haden may welcome the young quarterback to the league by shutting down his best option.
Mariota won’t be as impressive as he was against the Bucs, but he should be able to lead the Titans to their second win, tying their total from last season. Haden and the Browns defense keeps them in the game, but Manziel can’t find enough magic to ignite the offense as the Titans win 17-10.
Featured image by Casey Fleser
Edited by Cody McClure