Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns vs. Jaguars – Week 11

The Cleveland Browns are home again on Sunday to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars it what is probably one of only two games left on the schedule that the Browns have a realistic chance of winning.

The Opposition

Jacksonville record: 3-6 (3rd in the AFC South)
Offensive rank: 32rd overall/32nd passing/11th rushing
Defensive rank: 4th overall/5th passing/14th rushing
All-time record: Browns trail 4-9; the Browns are 1-5 at home against the Jaguars, but they did win the most recent home game, part of the mirage that was the four-game winning streak to close the 2009 season
Last meeting: Jacksonville won 24-20 in 2010
The line: Browns (+1)

What to Watch For

Can the Browns score a touchdown in the first quarter? They haven’t done it this season.

Can the Browns score a touchdown in the third quarter? They haven’t done it this season.

Can the Browns score a touchdown at home? They have gone 123 minutes without one at home – the last touchdown coming with 11:36 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Oct. 2 game vs. Tennessee.

Can the Browns stop the run? The defense has given up 568 rushing yards – the most in the NFL since Oct. 30 – during its season-worst three-game skid. Jacksonville is averaging 121.4 yards per game on the ground. Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for 854 yards, 4.5 yards per carry, this season. The Browns are giving up 142.8 yards per game on the ground.

Can the Browns move the ball against the Jaguars? Jacksonville is fourth overall in defense, but near the middle of the pack against the run, giving up 107.1 yards per game. Of course, the Browns can’t run the ball, they are averaging 87 yards per game (30th in the NFL) as they struggle with giving playing time to their 4th-string running back.

Montario Hardesty “leads” the Browns in rushing with 244 yards, but he probably won’t play on Sunday. Peyton Hillis is second with 211 yards and he definitely won’t play Sunday. Chris Ogbonnaya is third with 170 yards and Colt McCoy is fourth at 120. Unless you are Denver or Philadelphia, having your quarterback be one of your leading rushers is not a good thing.

Does the Browns offense and McCoy have the proper amount of “lust for the end zone?” If the Browns can’t run the ball they are going to have to find a way to pass it. Mohamed Massaquoi should be back for the Browns, and Jacksonville’s top cornerback, Rashean Mathis, is out for the season with an injury. Will that be enough to help a Browns team that has scored touchdowns on just 44.4 percent of its trips into the red zone? That’s the 23rd in the league, if you are scoring at home.

The Craziest Browns vs. Jaguars Game We’ve Seen

The 2001 “Bottlegate” game, although last year’s game, when the Browns forced six turnovers and still managed to lose, is a close second. And let’s not forget the 2002 game when Tim Couch hit Quincy Morgan – there’s a tandem – with a Hail Mary pass for the win.

The Prediction

This may sound like a bit of a cop-out, but who knows with this team anymore?

Injuries have robbed the Browns of the kind of running game they needed to help McCoy and the receivers, but somehow the Browns keep fighting and, against teams at their level, find themselves in the game at the end.

But the Browns also make mistakes at the worst times and just are not talented enough to overcome those mistakes.

Maybe today’s the day, however, and the Browns can send fans into the holiday week with something to be thankful for – a win (and even a touchdown!).

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 5-3-1.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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