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Browns vs. Jaguars NFL Week 14 Preview and Prediction - Cleveland’s defense needs to step it up

The Browns’ defense was electric to begin the year, but now they are the group that need to turn things around.

Cleveland Browns v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 14. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, and general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.


Game Analysis


Cincinnati Bengals v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

A Game of Uncertainty

  • I don’t think the Jaguars are playing coy about the status of QB Trevor Lawrence to try to gain an advantage over the Browns (i.e. game-planning for multiple quarterbacks). They know Lawrence is valuable to their chances of making the playoffs, and if they feel they can protect him enough, I think they’ll give serious thought to playing him. It’s a gamble, but it might be worth it. Ultimately, I will predict that Lawrence will test the ankle Sunday morning and be able to throw on it, but that it still feels uncomfortable — and that is where the team will have to sit him, knowing that one wrong painful moment on the ankle could keep him out longer.
  • I harped last week about the Browns not having had a two-game losing streak, but now here we are, with them losing both West Coast games to the Broncos and Rams. The offense is never quite electric, but the defense was disappointing in both games. You can say that for much of the contests, it was Denver and Los Angeles who were in control and comfortable with the offenses — early in the season, this Browns’ defense was disrupting everything to the point where they were forcing three-and-out after three-and-out.
  • It’s been more than just Denzel Ward being out and Myles Garrett being hobbled — the defense has lost its spark a little bit as teams have found a way to keep them off-balanced with pre-snap movement and things like end arounds. We need Jim Schwartz’ group to rebound in a big way this week, otherwise the team’s hopes for the playoffs will quickly go down the drain. Getting Ward and rookie CB Cameron Mitchell back should be a boost.

Cleveland Browns v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Ric Tapia/Getty Images

Riding With Flacco

  • The assumption is that Joe Flacco will start again this week after a fairly impressive debut against the Rams. He’ll also have Amari Cooper back, as he was cleared from a concussion. The Jaguars’ pass defense isn’t good, which should give Flacco some opportunities to remain aggressive. He may have to be more guarded knowing that James Hudson is starting at right tackle after Dawand Jones was a late scratch this week after coming down with a knee injury.
  • One thing I liked about Flacco last week was the believability of his deep playaction fakes. The fakes were sold well, and typically, pass rushers won’t immediately commit to going that far back to chase the quarterback because if the ball is handed off, it means there is one less defender available vs. more blockers. It kind of allowed the defense to be frozen last week, and allow Flacco enough time to survey the field and use his arm to compensate for the deep drop.
  • Ball placement was a key factor for Flacco last week too, compared to Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The ball was more consistently on the money, or in a spot that allows the receiver to attack the ball, as opposed to the receiver not knowing whether the ball is going to be ahead, behind, low, or high. I still like DTR and his mobility is an asset, but if we’re trying to salvage this season and take a shot at the postseason, then I’m in favor of taking the gamble with Flacco.

Quick Hitters

  • Last week was a rarity where Dustin Hopkins had a key mistake (the missed extra point) and didn’t have the chance to make amends for it.
  • The Browns’ running back situation remains tough to figure out. I still think Jerome Ford’s instincts leave much to be desired, but he has the speed for the open field. Kareem Hunt pushes through for consistent yardage, but doesn’t break big runs any more. Pierre Strong seems intriguing when he does get reps, showing hints that maybe he reads the hole better than Ford, but there are so few reps to go off of.
  • According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 3 point favorites against the Jaguars.

Predictions

Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.


Chris Pokorny: “I was doing well at picking Browns games this season, but I fell into the trap of picking them to win the past two weeks. I’m hopeful that the defense will be able to have the upper hand with either an immobile Trevor Lawrence, or a backup quarterback in C.J. Beathard. Denzel Ward’s return will hopefully rejueveniate the defense’s ability to play good man coverage, and allow those rushers up front to start lighting up the scoreboard again.” Browns 23, Jaguars 14


Thomas Moore: “Who knows what to make of this Browns team at the moment? Joe Flacco was OK last week in his first start of the season, and while 19 points is not exactly exciting, it was almost as many points as the Browns scored in the previous two games combined with Dorian Thompson-Robinson running the offense. On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns seem to be breaking down as the season grows long, and a once-dominant unit has seen a drop-off in the past six games.

But Sunday brings new opportunities, and coming home, where the Browns are 5-1 this season, will boost the lads. It also would be nice of C.J. Beathard starts at quarterback instead of Trevor Lawrence, although lord help us all if Beathard plays and beats the Browns.

The race to 10 wins, which would likely result in a playoff berth, hit a speed bump during Cleveland’s two-week trip to the West Coast, and time is drawing short. But the Browns should be able to do enough against a hobbled Jaguars team on Sunday to inch one step closer to the postseason.” Browns 21, Jaguars 13


Barry Shuck: “Despite QB Trevor Lawrence’s absence, Jacksonville is a very good team. The Browns are dead last in passing offense for the fifth week in a row. Hopefully, QB Joe Flacco can change that. Being without WR Amari Cooper is going to sting just as it looked like Flacco and Cooper were getting some chemistry going. Maybe this is where WR Elijah Moore earns his keep and finally comes out of his non-production closet. And if you noticed, Flacco is now using these chess pieces somebody called “the tight ends.” Who knew they were valuable in the passing game? The defense took a big hit against the Rams and hopefully will find their way again. DE Myles Garrett is certainly hurting and time for Za’Darius Smith to get it in gear because Ogbo has been outplaying him. Cleveland still has the league’s best pass defense and the Jags rush defense is very good.” Jaguars 31, Browns 17


Jared Mueller: “I really have no clue. How can anyone be confident when we have no idea who will play QB, who will be healthy enough to play at all, how limited is Myles Garrett and what kind of Lake Erie weather will be coming our way?

In a game that could come down to kicker, Dustin Hopkins might have a big test ahead of him that I think he will pass with flying colors (but miss one either FG or XP).” Browns 17, Jaguars 13


Curtiss Brown: “I was able to go into the lab and watch some tape of the Jacksonville Jaguars. This team isn’t as good as their record might indicate. Let me rephrase that, I think this team is good but not great. I don’t expect quarterback Trevor Lawrence to play on a short week on a high ankle sprain, that’s just not smart to do. CJ Beathard is dealing with a shoulder injury so it wouldn’t surprise me if Jacksonville activates another QB to backup Beathard (enter Kid Canada and former Ohio Bobcat Nathan Rourke). Wide receiver Christian Kirk will also be out but tight end Evan Engram and wide receiver Calvin Ridley will be there. Defensively, I think Jacksonville isn’t strong against the pass and their run defense got exposed on Monday night against Cincinnati. The only player to worry about on Jacksonville is Josh Allen, he has the ability to take over. I don’t know what to expect for this game, I think the game will be competitive. I expect the Browns defense to get some players back and get back to their ways of being dominant. Offensively, just don’t turn the ball over that’s all I ask for. Flip a coin I really don’t know who to pick at this point. Jags I think? Or Browns. I don’t know we’ll see.” Browns 20, Jaguars 19


Matt Wood: “I think this week is MASSIVE for the Browns and the playoffs. These are games you have to have. Defense has been cooked the last two weeks but they have both been on the road. Home is a different beast.

Here are the points allowed at home: 3, 3, 28, 17, 0 and 10. That includes two games against Vegas favorites for the Super Bowl from the AFC and NFC. Is 10.1 ppg good? I think it’s good.

Defense is going to have to come correct this week and a backup QB is just the needed medicine.

After this game you would think the Browns will be favored in 3 out of the 4 final games. A win Sunday gives you some wiggle room.

Defense steps up, Flacco protects the ball and Pierre Strong has his breakout game as the Browns cook the Jags 30-7.” Browns 30, Jaguars 7


Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.