Overview: First of all, how many of you out there knew there was an EverBank field in the NFL? I am not even trying to be a jerk. I had absolutely no idea that it was called EverBank field. It was formerly Jacksonville Municipal and most famously (to me) as Alltel Stadium. Regardless, this is where the Browns are headed to do battle with David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew and the rest of the Jags.
This is an important game for the Jaguars. They are one game out of first place with their 5-4 record. In their five wins they have won by a combined 45 points. Their four losses have been lost by a combined 99 points. Most recently they played a tough game against the Texans which they won on a miracle hail mary that was batted straight into their receiver’s hands. They were lucky to walk off the field when they did as winners, but it was headed to overtime, so they might have won the game even without the miracle.
This weekend the Browns might have their work cut out for them, or they might not. The Jags seem like a team that can’t figure out exactly who they are with such inconsistent performances. On top of that, they get to face a Browns team that is decidedly banged up coming into this one.
Airing it Out: David Garrard is a streaky type of player. When he is going well, watch out. When he isn’t like against San Diego in week two, it can be disastrous. He threw four interceptions in that one. He followed it up the following week against Philly with a 38.9 QB rating on 13-30 passing for 105 yards. That doesn’t tell the tale for Garrard though, as he is hot right now.
Garrard has completed 81% and 77.4% of his passes the last two weeks. Against Dallas (the game that finally got Wade Phillips fired,) Garrard threw four touchdown passes. Last week against Houston he threw two more TD passes. Then again, one of those was the miracle game-ender. Still, he went 24 for 31 with 342 yards.
Wide receiver Mike Thomas (second year our of Arizona) was the beneficiary. He had eight catches for 149 yards. So, even before he got the 50 yard miracle, Thomas was having a phenomenal day. Mike Sims-Walker is a bit slowed with an ankle, but he is expected to play. Tight end, Mercedes Lewis is also a solid target for Garrard.
Running it Down: Maurice Jones-Drew. I should really just stop there, but I won’t.
Jones-Drew had two touchdowns and 100 yards a week ago against the Houston defense. Even after that game, Houston’s defense is 15th in the NFL against the rush. Even still, (no jinx, no jinx) the Browns defense has given up the fewest rushing TDs in the league this year having allowed two so far. So, as I said, I probably should have stopped after saying Maurice Jones-Drew. We know who he is, and we know what he is capable of doing.
In the Trenches: The more subtle matchup of the game could be the Browns’ defense vs the Jaguars’ offensive line. At times the Jags have had difficulties keeping their QB upright. For the season, Garrard has been sacked 17 times. I hope the Browns’ defensive staff was watching game film of the Philly game though. In that game Garrard threw only one interception, but he was sacked SEVEN times. The Browns’ defense is 23rd in sacks in the NFL with only 16.
On the other side of the ball, the Browns’ offensive line is confusing. At full strength with Womack playing right tackle and Steinbach and Yates at the guard spots, the Browns have been really solid. Steinbach and Womack were on the injury report this week, so Browns fans are holding their breath.
Special Teams: The Browns don’t know if Josh Cribbs is going to play or not. At this point, my gut feeling is that he will not play as he recovers from four dislocated toes. The Browns signed Clifton Smith to return punts and kicks. He made the Pro Bowl as a returner in his rookie year in 2008 with the Buccaneers.
The Jags don’t have a return touchdown yet this season either. They have the advantage in terms of average return yardage though. They also have at least a couple of kicks that were returned 50 yards or more. The Browns’ longs are 36 and 32 via Cribbs and Joe Haden respectively.
Prediction: I am now 4-5 picking the Browns games after being right in predicting a Browns loss vs the Jets. I said the Browns would lose 17-14 to the Jets on a last second field goal. As you know the Browns lost 26-20 on an overtime TD.
This week, the Browns are around 1.5 point underdogs on the road to the Jags. The Browns are getting some respect in Vegas. So, how do I see this one going? Even though the Browns lost last week to the Jets, I still consider them to be on a decent roll in terms of play quality and confidence. The Jags should also feel pretty good after the way they won the prior week.
Unfortunately though, I think this is the week that the injuries catch up with the Browns. I think Colt McCoy could find himself with some serious pressure this week. I think Peyton Hillis still gets off for a pretty good day. Still, the Jags passing attack is going right now, and I just don’t see the Browns being able to put enough pressure on Garrard to keep him from killing the Browns who could potentially be without Sheldon Brown and Mike Adams.
I think the Browns again keep it close, but I think the Jags will score in bunches this week. I think they will score 35 points and the Browns will get a late touchdown in a failed comeback attempt to score 31. In the end, the Browns will lose 35-31 to the Jags in Jacksonville. As always, I hope I am wrong wrong wrong.