The Browns enter the week after a 13-12 loss to visiting St. Louis last Sunday, going 0-for-4 in the red zone and missing what would have been a go-ahead 22- yard field goal with just more than two minutes remaining courtesy of a bad snap. The Phil Dawson miss was fifth-shortest by an NFL kicker in the final three minutes of a game since 1983.
Cleveland’s moribund offense should benefit from the absence of Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis, who was placed on injured reserve Monday with a torn left ACL suffered against the Colts. The Jaguars have surrendered the league’s fifth-fewest passing yards per game (189.3).
“That’s a huge loss,” Jacksonville defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “That’s a veteran voice we need out there. We’ve got guys that have to step in and pick up where he left off and grow up, hopefully do the same thing he did.”
Here’s the keys to the game this week, as well as our final outcome for Sunday’s effort at Browns Stadium.
1. Stop Jones-Drew – No question that Maurice Jones-Drew figures to carry early and often against a Browns defense that’s 30th in the league against the run. That will also keep the heat off youngster Gabbert, whom Cleveland wants to force into obvious passing situations to have its best chance of success.
2. Go After the Jags Secondary – The absence of Rashean Mathis may open things up for University of Texas product McCoy, who’s shown flashes of being a gunslinger since taking over as starter last season. Cleveland needs to improve its offensive production to put its current losing streak to an end.
3. Don’t Give the Jags Any Early Confidence – Was Jacksonville’s win at Indianapolis merely the product of a poor opponent, or have the Jaguars actually turned the corner towards becoming a quality road team? With good defense and solid running game against an anemic foe, it could be the latter.
Prediction – When all else fails, go with the team that’s got the best player. In this case, it’s probably Jones-Drew. Add in a superior defense as well, even without Mathis, and Jacksonville seems to have the edge. Assuming they control the clock and limit mistakes, there’s no reason the Jaguars’ road streak shouldn’t go to two straight. Jaguars 17 Browns 14