The Browns have another tough AFC matchup in Week 14 against the Jaguars, who come to Cleveland Browns Stadium with an undefeated road record of 6-0. Sunday's game also marks the first of two consecutive home games for the Browns, where they are 5-1 at home.
"Very excited about the opportunity we have in front of us," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "Playoff team from last year, leading their division. Really well coached, a bunch of good players. […] Very excited to be back on the lake in front of our fans. All of you guys know what that experience is like. I know our players, our coaches feed off the energy from our fans. They make a huge difference in these ball games, and we need them this week."
So, let's look at three keys to Sunday's game for the Browns.
Handle the uncertainty of the quarterback situation
While the Browns offense continues to deal with uncertainty at quarterback, their defense is also experiencing the flipside this week. The Jaguars have spent the week working through their own quarterback situation after QB Trevor Lawrence sustained an ankle injury in Week 13. Lawrence was a limited participant in practice on Friday and is officially listed as questionable.
DC Jim Schwartz said it raises several questions for their defense.
"Maybe Trevor Lawrence plays and he's himself, he has his full mobility," Schwartz said. "Maybe he plays, and he doesn't have his mobility. And then maybe he doesn't play at all and Beathard plays."
Because of the uncertainty and no official starter named yet for Sunday, Schwartz said on Thursday that the Browns' game plan is about 25 percent bigger this week. Their game plan won't necessarily be 25 percent bigger within the game, but in it is in their preparation to handle the different possibilities that could arise. Schwartz said that at this time of the season, adding elements into the game from earlier in the year isn't as taxing.
"It's definitely got to be on our radar with how the game is being played from a personnel standpoint," Schwartz said.
DE Myles Garrett said that even with the uncertainty of who will start at quarterback for the Jaguars, they have to apply the same amount of pressure. They have to play to their standard of defense with their level of effort both in the pass rush and the run defense.
Manage against the Jaguars run defense
Besides the questions at starting quarterback for the Browns, they will also face a stout Jaguars defense that can stop the run. This season, the Jaguars allow an average of 93.1 rushing yards per game. They are ranked 11th in the league in yards allowed per carry at 4.1 and are fifth in total rushing yards allowed at 1,117. The Jaguars have also forced 10 fumbles this season.
OC Alex Van Pelt said that their communication as an offense and how they ID elements of the game will be important for the Browns.
"For the run game, for us, we got to stay in positive plays," Van Pelt said. "We had a couple of TFLs last week that kind of scared us a little bit in the run game and really didn't get it cranking until the second half. So, for us, it's coming out and being efficient on first and second down in the run game."
The Browns run game has had its ups and downs throughout the season, with different levels of success depending on their matchup and who is available. And while they face a strong run defense this week, the run game can still play a factor to help open up the passing game for the Browns.
Limit the Jaguars pass catchers
Regardless of if Lawrence plays on Sunday, the Jaguars have a strong group of pass catchers and receiving corps. Their corps took a hit this week as the Jaguars placed WR Christian Kirk on injured reserve on Friday, but they still have other players who are key in their success in the pass game.
WR Calvin Ridley has 689 receiving yards this season on 51 catches and five touchdowns. They also use TE Evan Engram in the passing game, as he has 606 receiving yards on 73 receptions and one touchdown. For S Grant Delpit, facing Engram is a challenge he's looking forward to in the secondary.
"I like competition games where they try to get tight ends involved," Delpit said. "Me playing safety, it goes hand in hand. Yeah, he gets a lot of targets. I don't know if he's their leading receiver, but he's like a close second, I think. So, it's going to be a good game for me."