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Browns-Jaguars Preview


The Browns will win the game if…

1)    They rush for more than 150 yards

According to Pro Football Reference, the Browns are 23-7 since 1999 when they have rushed for 150 yards or more. On paper, this seems doable, as it has in every other Cleveland win. Last week against the Steelers the Browns totaled 158 yards on the ground. Ben Tate methodically earned 78 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, while rookie Isaiah Crowell bolted for 77 yards of his own on 11 rushes. Expect the Browns to lean on the hot-hand on Sunday and expect close to 40 carries again. For that to happen …

2)    The offensive line needs to be in cohesion

It'll be weird to see an entire Browns game without Alex Mack. John Greco stepped in admirably last week, but Jacksonville has two weapons on their side: a ferocious front four and film to watch on where to attack Greco. We should point out it's not just Greco that needs to keep his level of play elevated. Paul McQuistan gets his first start with Cleveland at right guard. Expect the Jaguars to put their cards on the table and attack the right side of the Browns' offensive line early and often.

3)    They force two Blake Bortles interceptions

In four appearances, this year's third overall draft pick has thrown seven interceptions. These are the type of growing pains expected for a rookie quarterback. Bortles is likely going to make some poor decisions against the Browns' defense; it'll be up to Cleveland to pounce. Watch closely for Joe Haden. The Pro Bowler played his best game of the season last week – fighting through a hip injury – and really seems to have turned the corner on some early season struggles. Including college, this is Haden's fifth game at Jackonville's Everbank Field, where he has two interceptions (one college, one NFL). He also has two interceptions in three career games against the Jaguars.

The Jaguars will win if…

1)    Bortles plays like Jake Locker did a few weeks back in Tennessee

Locker gave the Browns' defense fits with his extend-the-play ability, throttling Cleveland before injuring his hand. Bortles has flashed the ability to create something out of nothing and has scrambled for 106 yards on 16 carries. The Jaguars need him to show his "Baby Ben Roethlisberger" traits, as coach Mike Pettine said he does possess similar characteristics at the quarterback position.

2)    Sack Brian Hoyer

Why has Hoyer been so successful in 2014? He's mostly been throwing in a clean pocket. Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio and company have been pummeling opposing defensive lines. In turn, Hoyer has the ninth highest quarterback rating (99.5). If Jacksonville can sack Hoyer 4-5 times, it will disrupt the timing of Cleveland's offense.

3)     Start fast

It's become a cliché story line about the Browns, but to this date, it's still true. In Pettine's opening statement to the press on Wednesday, he didn't back away from the Browns' poor showing on the road. Cleveland's been outscored 55-13 in their two first halves at Pittsburgh and Tennessee. Jacksonville should take chances early – throwing deep on offense and blitzing on defense – to try and seize the momentum.

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