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Titans vs. Browns NFL Week 3: Cleveland favored despite no Nick Chubb, perhaps Deshaun Watson

Monday night has not been kind to two of the NFL’s best players at their position. In Week 1, Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending torn Achilles, likely taking New York out of Super Bowl contention. In Week 2, #Browns four-time Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb blew out his left knee in gruesome fashion and also is done for 2023. Cleveland has opened as a 3-point home favorite for Week 3 vs. Tennessee on Sunday despite no Chubb, a short week and the possibility that QB Deshaun Watson could be suspended. Might be wise to take those points now.

No, Watson isn’t in any additional off-field trouble, but he did appear to shove an official during a bit of a scrum in Monday night’s loss in Pittsburgh, Cleveland’s 20th straight regular-season defeat there. The officials would have been well within their authority to eject Watson for the action, but he wasn’t even flagged. Will shoving an official be enough to suspend Watson? He also had two egregious facemask fouls against the Steelers, grabbing a pursuing defender by the cage and throwing him to the ground.

Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending injury on Monday.

If this were Rodgers or Tom Brady, we wouldn’t be talking about a suspension, but Watson has a checkered past. His backup is fifth-round rookie Dorian-Thompson Robinson, who looked so good in camp/preseason that Cleveland traded presumed No. 2 Joshua Dobbs to Arizona.

The Browns will need Watson to raise his game without Chubb, arguably the NFL’s best running back. Chubb, who also had major surgery on that same left knee at Georgia, has four straight 1,000-yard seasons, although that obviously will end. The only season he came short of 1,000 was as a rookie when Chubb finished with 996 yards. He scored at least eight TDs in all five years. Chubb had 64 yards on 10 carries prior to getting injured Monday and 106 yards on the ground in Week 1.

Since 1950 in the entire NFL, only Chubb and former Browns legend Jim Brown have totaled at least 6,000 rushing yards on at least 5.0 yards per carry in each of his first five seasons, and Chubb is the only player in NFL history to average 5.0 yards per rush in five straight seasons. His career average of 5.3 yards per carry is third all-time among tailbacks with at least 500 carries.

With Chubb out, coach Kevin Stefanski said on Tuesday that backup Jerome Ford, who rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries against the Steelers, is now the team's "featured back," even as it looks to add depth behind him. Former Browns backup Kareem Hunt is available and makes a ton of sense. Cleveland has failed to start 2-0 for the 27th straight season, extending the longest streak in NFL history.

The #Titans (1-1) snapped an eight-game losing streak, the team’s longest since 2014, with Sunday’s 27-24 OT comeback win over the Chargers. Ryan Tannehill established a single-game career high with an 83.3 completion percentage (minimum 20 attempts), completing 20 of 24 passes for 246 yards.

Tennessee ranks tied for third with Cleveland in rush defense this season, allowing only 65.0 ypg, but at least the Titans have a healthy Derrick Henry. His next rushing touchdown will make him the seventh NFL player in the Super Bowl era (1966–present) to reach 8,000 rushing yards and 80 rushing touchdowns within his first eight seasons.

The Titans have won their past two in Cleveland (2017 and ’19). The teams haven’t played since 2020 in Nashville when the Browns won 41-35.

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