Quarterback Joe Flacco is 9-2 at Cleveland Stadium, that’s why I’m watching. This Sunday Cleveland hosts Jacksonville in Cleveland Browns Stadium at 1:00 pm EST. The Jaguars are ranked twelfth in total offense averaging 347 yards, 243 yards passing, 103 yards rushing and 23.8 points a game. Their defense is ranked 24th in total defense allowing 355 yards a game, 262 yards passing, 93 yards rushing and 21.6 a game. The Browns are ranked twentieth in total offense averaging 321 yards a game, 186 yards passing, 135 yards rushing and 21.5 points a game. They’re ranked number one in total defense allowing 261 yards, 153 yards passing, 107 yards rushing and 20.4 points a game. What am I watching?
Browns Offense Vs. Jaguars Defense. As noted above, Jacksonville is below average against the pass and top ten against the run. Since quarterback Deshaun Watson’s injury (three games) opposing teams have increased stacking the line of scrimmage to stop the run by 63.5%. However, Jags defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi has been limited in practice this week. The Browns will have to find a way to control linebacker Josh Allen who leads the team in sacks with 13.5, half of the team’s 26 total. He also has eleven tackles for loss and 71 pressures. When Browns quarterback Joe Flacco wasn’t pressured against the Rams, he was 19 for 29, 225 yards and two touchdowns. Jacksonville’s pass defense can be taken advantage of. Against the Bengals Jake Browning, they allowed 354 yards, one touchdown and a QBR of 115.5. The Jaguars linebackers are great against the run but are top ten in giving up yards after the catch to opposing tight ends. I expect big games from David Njoku and Harrison Bryant. The Browns will need to continue to use the short passing game to free up the running lanes. This will make play action more effective. Against the Rams, Joe Flacco was 10 for 16, 165 yards and two touchdowns in play action and nineteen of his throws were ten-plus yards, most by a Browns quarterback in five years. Big games from Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin. The Browns will again use the Jacoby Brissett offense, hopefully without the flat passes to the running backs.
Browns Defense Vs. Jaguars Offense. With quarterback Trevor Lawrence playing, which I think he will this game, the Jaguar offense is potent. Due to injury, Jacksonville will be without wide receiver Christian Kirk and tight end Brenton Strange. They still have tight end Evan Ingram and wide receivers Zay Jones, Parker Washington and Calvin Ridley. Their running game is also strong with do-everything running back Travis Etienne. Jacksonville’s offense line is a weakness and is weaker with the injury to second-string left tackle Walker Little who hasn’t practiced all week. They might be forced to start former Browns Blake Hance or Ezra Cleveland. Their right tackle, Anton Harrison has given up five sacks. The Browns defensive line must convert pressure into sacks. The secondary and the defense as a whole will improve with the return of cornerback Denzel Ward. Without Ward, the defense allowed 140 yards rushing and 190 yards passing. With Ward, the defense allows 96 yards rushing and 141 yards passing. The Browns defense will have to stop the Jaguars from long drives for points. They’ve allowed points on just 39 of 154 drives this year (25.3%), first in the league. Stop the run, cover well and pressure and hit the quarterback, how the defense usually plays at home.
On offense, take advantage of the Jaguars’ weak secondary (30th against the pass) and on defense, limit big plays by the Jaguars offense.