The Jacksonville Jaguars still have a very faint chance of making the playoffs. Realistically though, they are done. The Cleveland Browns lost their chance about the end of October. At 7-8, the Jaguars still must come to the shores of Lake Erie on a blustery. very cold Sunday to face the 4-11 Browns. A Browns team that is playing like they are trying to lock up home field advantage for the post season.
Three games ago, this looked like it would be a mismatch. Jacksonville controlled their own destiny and Cleveland controlled the first pick in the 2010 draft. Since then, the Jaguars have lost three straight and the Browns have won three in a row. Funny how quick things can change in the NFL.
As always, in late season games in Cleveland, running the ball becomes extremely important. The Jaguars have an outstanding running back in Maurice Jones-Drew, who has rushed for 1309 yards and only fumbled once this year. He is also very good at catching the ball out of the backfield. Cleveland must contain him if they are going to win. Quarterback David Garrard is solid as long as he has a running game. The Browns defense has been playing well of late against the run but this will be their biggest challenge.
The Browns may have discovered their own Maurice Jones=Drew in Jerome Harrison. He has rushed for 286 and 148 yards and scored four touchdowns the last two games. If the Browns are going to win this game, Harrison will play a huge part. In their three game winning streak over Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Oakland, the Browns have averaged just under 229 yards a game on the ground. They will need to include Josh Cribbs and Chris Jennings in their game plan as well to take some of the load off Harrison. Derek Anderson needs to take care of the ball and get the Browns in the right offense.
Eric Mangini and his coaching counter part, Jack Del Rio, could both be gone by early next week if they lose on Sunday. Even a win might not be enough to save their jobs but it could help. This game could come down to who wants it more. If it does, I like Cleveland’s chances.