After two straight weeks of bad play on the field, quarterback controversies, and fan backlash surrounding the ongoing National Anthem protest, the Tennessee Titans were finally able to enjoy a week of positive publicity after ending their eleven-game losing streak to the Indianapolis Colts Monday night.
The victory catapulted Tennessee back into a three-way tie atop the AFC South.
But the quickest way to undo all of the positive vibes surrounding their latest victory is to lose to the NFL’s version of the Bad News Bears…
The winless Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland has been the poster child for ineptitude since re-joining the league as an expansion team in 1999. Today’s millennial has never seen the franchise as anything other than the doormat of the league.
However, with all of their dysfunction, history shows that the Titans can ill afford to treat this game as a penciled-in win.
Tennessee and Cleveland have met in each of the last three seasons, with the Browns winning two of those contests.
It could have legitimately been a three-game sweep for Cleveland, and the Titans’ losses came in the most unspectacular ways that you could imagine.
In 2014 the visiting Browns overcame a 28-3 second quarter deficit to stun the Titans 29-28. Cleveland used a 26-0 run to pull off the biggest regular season comeback in the history of the NFL.
The following year the Titans and Browns met in week 2. Tennessee was coming off an impressive blowout victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a record-setting day by rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota in his first NFL start.
The Browns lost their starting quarterback in the season opener and was forced to start backup qb Johnny Manziel.
Yes…that Johnny Manziel….the TMZ magnet.
The heavily favored Titans went into FirstEnergy Energy stadium and were down 21-0 in the blink of an eye. Manziel, who by all accounts was clearly not ready to start, looked like the Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner that day, torching the Titans’ defense through the air with two long touchdown passes and no interceptions.
The Browns held on for a 28-14 upset victory in Manziel’s only win…ever…in the NFL. He was out of the league shortly thereafter.
Last season the Titans were once again heavy favorites to beat a visiting Browns team that was 0-5 with 18 rookies on the active game day roster.
True to form, the Browns staged a furious second half comeback that included a successful onside kick recovery and touchdown score late in the fourth quarter.
The Titans held on for dear life to squeak out a 28-26 victory after Cleveland’s failed two point conversion in the closing minutes.
So, here we are again. Tennessee is favored to easily handle a winless Cleveland team that is clearly less talented.
And while the fans are expecting to enter the bye with a cakewalk victory and 4-3 record, history has shown that the Titans better bring their A game Sunday afternoon.
A loss to the Bad News Browns would not only be extremely embarrassing, but it could ultimately cost Tennessee one of the AFC’s coveted playoff spots by year’s end.
Knowing this, I expect the Titans to learn from their mistakes and handle their business in the Dawg Pound this weekend.