It’s Time The NFL Took Notice – Jacksonville Has Arrived
Jacksonville, FL — As the Cleveland Browns (0-9), look for their first win of the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) look to keep the momentum going for their fourth win in a row. The Jags are favored by eight points. However, the Browns should cover due to vital injuries on the Jacksonville offense. Cleveland is a scrappy bunch and will give their “A” effort against their former NFL bottom feeding companion.
The AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night; a Jacksonville win gives them an inside track to a home playoff game. The last time Jacksonville had a home playoff game was Jan 15, 2000.
Weather the Injuries
The Jaguars travel to Cleveland banged up as star rookie running back Leonard Fournette (ankle) did not practice Friday and is questionable. Fournette had his worst outing of the season in Sunday’s win against the Chargers. The rookie had the missed three games before Sunday’s game and did not look like himself. The Jags may hold Fournette out for precautionary reasons as they’ll need him for a playoff run.
On top of the Fournette injury, starting offensive linemen Patrick Omameh (quad) and Jeremy Parnell (knee) are questionable. The combination of three players not playing could prove fatal, as the Browns yield the fourth-ranked rushing defense (86.4 yds/gm).
Also, Jags receiver Allen Hurns (ankle) will not play Sunday so rookie receiver Dede Westbrook could make his season debut in Hurns’ absence.
Manufacture First Downs/Points
Jacksonville could find themselves in a similar situation such as last week, not being able to run the ball and relying on quarterback Blake Bortles to win the game. Due to Cleveland’s stout run defense and the possibility of Fournette out, the Jacksonville’s offense will have to move the chains and put points on the board by any means necessary.
Cleveland has a middle of the pack pass defense, giving up 231 yards through the air per contest. However, Bortles having 51 pass attempts is not the route Jacksonville should go. The Jags must find a balance using whoever is in the backfield, Cleveland will load the box like most teams have all season. Jacksonville leads the league in rushes vs. an eight-man box (89).
Most noteworthy, the Jags need to put their young receivers in favorable situations. They will see their share of man coverage, once identified, Bortles needs to exploit it.
Let Kizer Throw
It will be a very long day for Brown’s quarterback DeShone Kizer. Jacksonville has the NFL’s best pass defense (165 yds/gm) and leads the NFL in sacks with 35. The Jaguars will be eager to get after Kizer after generating zero sacks last week for the first time this season.
Look for the Jags to bait Kizer into medium and deep throws as he leads the NFL in interceptions with 12. The Browns use the short passing game to keep Kizer out of trouble with their leading receiver Duke Johnson, a running back. Johnson leads the team in receptions (42) and yards (358), however, most of his yards came after the catch with 333.
Prediction: This game will be closer than expected, but that’s ok. A win against the winless Browns equals a win against the Steelers (#1 seed AFC), whom the Jaguars beat already. Jacksonville will find a way win because they’re a winning organization now.
Jaguars 20 – Browns 13