The Cleveland Browns have yet to win a game, but could this be the week they accomplish victory? On paper, they can win this matchup, but they must stick to the game plan. The Browns strong suits are defense and running the ball. The problem is that Cleveland falls behind early and the deficit grows to the point of abandoning the run.
In nine games, Isaiah Crowell has only had 118 attempts on the year. He has accumulated 441 yards for a 3.7 yard average in addition to his 167 yards on 18 receptions. Crowell has been an efficient back despite his underwhelming usage. The half back could be in line for a big game if Cleveland commits to running the ball.
Jacksonville’s defense has been outstanding this year, but is lenient to running backs. The Jaguars run defense ranks in the bottom half of the league surrendering 120.7 yards per game. This could bode well for Crowell or even Duke Johnson. Both of the Browns running backs should be the highlight of Cleveland’s offensive game plan. Johnson has been just as effective this year as he has accumulated 230 rushing yards (5.2 avg) and is on pace to set career highs in receptions (42) and receiving yards (358). If I’m coaching the Browns this Sunday, my goal would be for both Crowell and Johnson to peak 100 yards.
Additionally, the pending weather calls for chances of snow. These conditions could limit the passing game for both teams which leads me to the most important matchup: the Browns defense versus the Jaguars ground attack.
Jacksonville is tied with Carolina for the most rush attempts this season with 305. They lead the league in rushing with 1,467 yards and 163 yards per game. The back leading the way is rookie Leonard Fournette. He has amassed 629 yards and six touchdowns in just seven games. A runner as explosive as Fournette is an intimidating task to take, but Cleveland may have the advantage.
Fourenette is currently listed as questionable to play on Sunday due an ankle injury. The rookie missed one game due to injury followed by a bye week and then was benched a game for violating team rules. After a three week absence from game action, he returned to face the Chargers who surrender a league worst 135.1 yards per game. They held Fournette to 33 yards on 17 carries proving that he may not be 100% healthy.
A sub par Fournette gives Cleveland an advantage. Whether or not he plays, Jacksonville has two other running backs in Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon who possess big play ability so Cleveland can’t sleep on any of these backs regardless of who is in the game. Another favorable situation is that LG Patrick Omameh and RT Jeremy Parnell are both questionable to play meaning the offensive line won’t be at full strength which benefits the stingy Cleveland defense who allows just 86.4 rushing yards per game and their 778 rushing yards allowed are good enough for third best in the NFL. If the Browns can stop Jacksonville’s bread and butter, the pressure then rests on Blake Bortles to win the game and we have all seen him under duress.
Point being, Cleveland has a legit opportunity to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars. Injuries, weather and defense are all factors that will decide the outcome of this game. It should mean in Cleveland’s favor, but if you’re from this city you should know everything is earned, not given so the Browns will have to fight if they want to achieve victory.