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Posted by Nov - 18 - 2011 0 Comment

Things to consider before deciding to go watch this game Sunday:

  • Come four o’clock Sunday afternoon, one of these teams will be privileged enough to call themselves 4-6. The other will continue to search for ways to win amidst a season of rebuilding and disappointment. And if these two teams got up and played the again on Monday, the roles could very easily be reversed. These are two of the worst teams in the NFL right now, and they share some striking similarities as well as stark differences.

 

  • Of the things the Browns and Jaguars have in common is a solid, respectable defense. However the Browns have begun giving up huge amounts of yards on the ground to their previous 5 opponents, and their stock as a unit is falling. The Jaguars are very solid up front, get good pressure on the quarterback, yet lost arguably their best playmaker on the defensive side of the ball in CB Rashean Mathis, lost to a torn left ACL for the season. If by some miracle the Browns can find their way into passing the ball well, they could make plays in a now suspect Jaguar secondary. But to do that, they will have to keep Colt McCoy out of the hands of former Brown Matt Roth and his fellow Jaguar defensive linemen. Since Labor Day, that has been a rather daunting challenge.

 

  • The Browns will face another tough All-Pro running back this week in Maurice Jones-Drew. Drew shredded the Browns defense late in the contest in Jacksonville last year, leading the Jags to a come-from-behind 24-20 victory. The 5’7″ 208 pound wrecking ball has had some decent games against the brown-and-orange, and will arguably be the best player on the field at a given moment Sunday. Considering the difficulty the Browns defense has had in stopping the run recently, Jones-Drew will have to be careful not to slip in a pool of his own saliva while drooling over the gaping holes he’s bound to see on the lakefront Sunday. However, should the Browns D-tackle tandem of Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor play a solid game up front, MJD will have to work as hard for yards this week as he has any Sunday to this point.

 

  • A good day by Jones-Drew would help keep the pressure off of rookie Jaguar QB Blaine Gabbert. While he has had moments where he’s played well this season for the Jags, there are also moments where the 6’3″ 233 pounder looks terrified to play QB in the NFL. He throws a lot off of his back foot, doesn’t often step into his throws, and has even cowered in the face of an oncoming blitz more than once. The Jags are already coming in with the idea of being a run-first unit Sunday against the Browns struggling run defense. The Browns could make them truly one-dimensional by harassing Gabbert early and often, taking him mentally and physically out of the game.

 

  • A possible bright spot for the Browns could be the return of the oft-injured Montario Hardesty to the lineup. Listed as a game time decision to play, Hardesty would bolster a Browns running game that has been unimpressive, despite the 90 yards on 19 carries for Chris Ogbannaya last week. Even if he only comes in to play 15-20 snaps, he could help the Browns stay on the field offensively, sustain drives, and keep Jones-Drew and the Jaguar offense off the field.

Advantages for Sunday:

  • Run offense – The Browns at best would have a half-healthy Hardesty to go along with Ogbannaya and Thomas Clayton. Maurice Jones-Drew will most likely out-rush that trio all by himself. Advantage: Jaguars
  • Pass offense – Given his struggles this season, Colt McCoy is clearly the better of the two QBs starting this game. Jacksonville’s WR corps is so bad, they picked up Browns cast-off Brian Robiskie, who is questionable to even play in his ‘homecoming’. Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi is back after missing the better part of two games with a concussion, and rookie Greg Little is improving bit by bit every week. The Jags secondary is hurting, and if he can get time McCoy should find ways to take advantage of that. Advantage: Browns
  • Run defense – The Browns have faced and chased some of the best RBs in the league this year, and have been left battered and bruised after each game. The Jaguar defense is very solid up front, and won’t face the challenge Sunday their Browns counterparts will. If he gets off, MJD might have a career day. Advantage: Jaguars
  • Pass defense – Already mentioned is the loss of Mathis for the Jags. The Browns will still be without safety T.J. Ward, but are clearly the better unit of the two teams here. If they can capitalize on some mistakes by Gabbert, they might be able to make plays that takes pressure of the Browns offense and run defense. Advantage: Browns
  • Special teams – Until roughly the two minute mark of last Sunday’s game, Phil Dawson and the Browns special teams were considered pretty much the most dependable part of the team, even given a couple blocks earlier in the season. And in one quick moment, they came crashing down to crush the hearts of Browns fans everywhere. Still, when the snap and hold are good, Phil Dawson is as reliable as they come. However, the Jags Josh Scobee has a thunderous leg, with a 60 yarder on his resume and can boot the ball into the stands on kickoffs. That would effectively neutralize Josh Cribbs on KO returns. But the Jags will have to punt sometime Sunday, and that will give Cribbs a chance. Advantage: Browns

Prediction:

For the second time in as many weeks, the Browns will play another bottom-feeder opponent on the lakeshore in a most-likely unwatchable game. And even looking at the advantages above that tilt the scale ever so slightly in the Browns favor, the one advantage the Jaguars have over the Browns on both sides of the ball makes the greatest impact on the game. The ability to both run the ball effectively and stop the run gives any team a great chance to win. Against an uninspiring Browns team, it makes it a foregone conclusion. Is this the week the Browns finally prove to more than themselves that they are a team worthy of inclusion in the NFL? IS this the coming-of-age game for Jags QB Blaine Gabbert? Will the stadium be half empty by the start of the 4th quarter? Only the last question can be answered with any form of certainty. Again, this is a game where I think there’s probably a single touchdown to be had by either team, and again, I think the first to find it wins. And again, I don’t think its the Browns, regardless how much that pains me to say. Prediction Jaguars 13, Browns 9.

Categories: Cleveland Browns

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