The Cleveland Browns are currently in the basement of the AFC North and will be fighting to remain out of the basement of the NFL on Sunday. A loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday and the Browns could find themselves dead last in NFL power rankings.
While the Browns (4-7) enter the game with a better record than the Jaguars (2-9), the Jags have won two of their last three games.
The Browns will need to regroup from back-to-back bludgeonings at the hands of AFC North foes and focus on a game that seemed like a layup a month ago. In other words, the Browns cannot beat themselves.
The Browns have a more talented roster than Jacksonville, but that doesn’t mean much in the NFL. If you take a team too lightly it will steal a victory in a heartbeat.
The Browns must also find some offensive consistency with quarterback Brandon Weeden at the helm. They have lost five of their last six games and are averaging just 15.6 points per game in the losses.
Weeden, who has failed to get the Browns a victory in his four starts this season, needs to get going early and gain some confidence. The Browns cannot afford for him to play panicked and inconsistent like last week.
The Competitive Edge
While Brandon Weeden has been bad for the Browns, Chad Henne has not been much better for the Jags. He is completing 62 percent of his passes this season and has thrown nine interceptions to just four touchdowns.
They may have won two of their last three games, but Henne has one touchdown and four interceptions during that span.
This one isn’t even close. The Browns do not have a feature running back. The Jaguars have one of the best dual threats in the NFL.
Even with his team struggling, Maurice Jones-Drew still has 754 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns.
Jaguars’ wide receiver Cecil Shorts III is good, but Josh Gordon is proving to be elite for the Browns. He is fifth in the NFL in receiving yards with 988 and that is after missing two games due to suspension.
The rest of each team’s receiving corps is just a bunch of guys.
|Calvin Johnson (Det)||122||1198||18.2||11||10|
|Antonio Brown (Pit)||115||1044||13.1||6||11|
|A.J. Green (Cin)||124||1020||15.2||6||11|
|Andre Johnson (Hou)||119||1002||13.5||5||11|
|Josh Gordon (Cle)||98||988||18.3||5||9|
Tight end Jordan Cameron is still better than anything the Jaguars can put on the field at that position but he has not been good lately.
Over his last seven games, he is averaging 43 receiving yards per game and has just one touchdown. Those are not elite numbers. In fact, those are not even average.
The Browns offensive line gets this category by default. They have already given up more sacks this season (39) than they did in all of 2012 (36).
While the Browns are a terrible run blocking line too, the Jaguars are dead last in the NFL, averaging just 2.9 yards per rushing attempt.
The Browns defensive has been held without a sack for two straight weeks, but it still ranks 14th in the league with 31. The Jaguars have just 17 total sacks on the season.
The Jaguars are also 26th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. They give up 133.5 per contest. Those things all start up front.
The Browns win this category as well but it is just because the Jaguars are so bad. They have Paul Posluszny, who is third in the NFL with 102 tackles, but no one else has been very effective.
D’Qwell Jackson has been playing well for the Browns, but they are down to a third-stringer next to him at inside linebacker.
Nate Ulrich of the Akron-Beacon Journal tweeted Wednesday that both Craig Robertson and Tank Carder were held out of practice.
#Browns not practicing:QB Campbell (concussion), LBs Robertson (knee) & Carder (shoulder). CB Skrine (ribs) & TE Gray (hammy) back in action— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) November 27, 2013
Buster Skrine returned to practice Wednesday (see above tweet from Ulrich), and that will help the Browns secondary a ton. Both he and Joe Haden were abused a little last week against the Steelers and should relish the opportunity to play the Jaguars' poor passing offense.
Neither team has a very good special teams unit. Josh Scobee for Jacksonville is a very consistent kicker, but other than him both teams are very average in this department.
Browns Offense vs. Jaguars Defense
The Jaguars have allowed 20 passing touchdowns this season. They have just 17 sacks and create almost no pressure on quarterbacks. They have allowed 29.5 points per game this season, 30th in the NFL.
If Brandon Weeden cannot get the passing game going at home against this defense there may be no hope for him after all.
The Jaguars are even more susceptible on the ground, but the Browns are not equipped to take advantage of that situation.
Despite his fumbling issues, I would still like to see running back Chris Ogbonnaya get around 20 carries against Jacksonville. He should be able to find some success on the ground.
The Jaguars secondary is very young and inexperienced and a dream matchup for receiver Josh Gordon. He should be able to feast on the back end of Jacksonville’s defense.
Browns Defense vs. Jaguars Offense
The Jaguars offense is just plain bad. They only score 12.9 points per game, they only gain 283 yards per game and they have 19 turnovers on the year.
For the second straight week the Browns defense will face one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL but this week it will not be Ben Roethlisberger standing behind it. Chad Henne is slow, indecisive and prone to making bad throws.
The Browns have to create pressure on Henne early and often to knock him out of rhythm. They should be able to run up their sack total on Sunday and snag an interception or two.
The one thing the Browns cannot afford to do is let Jacksonville get early scores and start to run the football. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew can take over a game by himself if you allow him.
The defense needs to hold the Jaguars down until their offense can crate a lead and take away Jones-Drew as an option.
There isn’t any snow predicted in the forecast for Sunday as of now, so that should take some of the risk out of special teams for both squads.
The Jaguars are fourth in the NFL in kickoff return average, but the new rules make that a very misleading stat. They average about 26 yards per return, but most of those only make it to the 20-yard line because the ball is received in the end zone.
The Jaguars are dead last in punt return average at 4.9 yards per return. They do not pose much of a threat in either department.
What They’re Saying
“The type of guys that we have in the locker room, their support for him, they want to win and everybody realizes that Brandon needs to play well, as everybody does, but Brandon needs to play well and do his part for us to win.”
—Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski on the locker room still being behind Brandon Weeden
“It’s a dream come true to come back home and play in front of your own family and friends.”
—Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III on playing back in Cleveland where he grew up
Browns Wednesday Injury Report
Did not participate: Inside linebacker Craig Robertson (Knee), inside linebacker Tank Carder (Shoulder) and quarterback Jason Campbell (Head)
Head coach Rob Chudzinski told the media Wednesday that, “It’s doubtful that (Jason Campbell) will play, but he has not been ruled out completely,” via Nate Ulrich of the Akron-Beacon Journal.
This leaves the Browns with Brandon Weeden once again as their starting quarterback. Four of their seven losses have come with Weeden as the starter.
Robertson and Carder being held out of practice means that third-stringer Darius Eubanks will probably get the start Sunday. He played fairly well replacing Carder on Sunday.
Limited: Defensive lineman Armonty Bryant (Back), wide receiver Josh Cooper (Illness), tight end Marques Gray (Hamstring) and cornerback Buster Skrine (Ribs)
The best news of the week is that Buster Skrine practiced on Wednesday, even though he was limited. Rookie cornerback Leon McFadden, who would be the starter if Skrine is unable to play, has just three tackles on the season and does not seem ready for a major role.
Tight end Marques Gray’s return is good for the Browns as well, because he adds versatility to their running game. While they have only used him three times, the threat of that play takes up time in opponents’ practices.
Full Participation: Running back Willis McGahee (Knee), punter Spencer Lanning (Knee), offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz (Toe) and outside linebacker Paul Kruger (Finger)
Running back Willis McGahee has become a mainstay on the injury report and I think the trend of his carries diminishing will continue.
Everyone else should be fine and ready to go for Sunday’s contest.
Who will finish the season with a worse record?
This Week’s Game Stats and Facts
Josh Gordon set a franchise record with 237 receiving yards and tied a team record with 14 receptions last week vs. Pittsburgh, while adding one touchdown. His 14 receptions are tied for the most by an NFL player this season and his 237 yards is the second-highest figure.
The Browns are the only team to have not allowed a 100-yard rusher or a 300-yard passer in a game this season.
According to Stats LLC, DB Joe Hadenis tied for the league lead with 16 passes defended, while DB Buster Skrine is third with 15.
Over the last two games, the Browns have held their opponents to 5-of-28 (17.9 percent) on third-downs.
All quotes and observations obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Game stats and facts are courtesy of the Browns’ and Jaguars’ communications departments.