The Browns once again handled their business in Week 11 with a 22-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, a victory that vaulted them to 7-3 on the season. It was a complete team effort as the defense chipped in nine points, special teams were solid once again and the offense delivered a decisive blow in the fourth quarter to seal the game. The Browns were the better team and did what they had to do to survive and advance despite being without the incomparable Myles Garrett.
This week, the Browns will also have to overcome the loss of Denzel Ward, but as has been the case all season for Kevin Stefanski's team, the next man up is expected to step up and get the job done in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars enter Week 12 at 1-9 on the season and have lost nine straight games. They are on to their third quarterback of the year, as Mike Glennon will get the start, and rank near the bottom of the league in every major statistical category on both sides of the ball. They will be without their top two receivers, four of their five starting defensive backs, their leading pass rusher and their defensive coordinator. To say that the already struggling Jaguars are limping into this matchup would be an understatement of epic proportions.
Still, they can be dangerous and the Browns must remain focused to take care of business by following the Winning Mix.
1. Act Accordingly
Plainly stated, the Browns have been the better football team this season and need to act accordingly to earn the win over the Jaguars. Jacksonville ranks in the bottom five in the league in total offense, total defense, scoring offense, scoring defense, passing offense, rushing defense, turnover differential, sacks, sacks allowed, yards per play allowed and big plays per game allowed. In other words, 2020 has been a major struggle for the Jags, who are on a nine-game losing streak.
Jacksonville has played the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers close in two of the last three weeks but have lost four of their last six games by 24, 10, 18 and 16 respectively. The Browns need to take care of the football, not make penalty or mental errors to extend Jacksonville drives and just play the game the way they have all year under Stefanski.
2. Next man up steps up
Last week without Garrett, the Browns needed to step up at the defensive end position to make up for his loss, and boy did they. Olivier Vernon had his best game as a Brown, as he sacked Carson Wentz three times, including one for a safety in the Browns win. Vernon earned the AFC Defensive Player of the Week award for his accomplishments, and the Browns could sure use a repeat performance from Vernon and veteran Adrian Clayborn, who stepped up with 1.5 sacks of his own against the Eagles. This week, the defensive end room will once again be without Garrett, and it will also have to make up for the loss of Porter Gustin as well.
In addition to Vernon's big day in Week 11, Ward had an interception and a quarterback hit that led to a pick-six by LB Sione Takitaki in the win over Philadelphia. Unfortunately both Ward and Takitaki will be unavailable for the Browns this week. In the cornerback room, Terrance Mitchell and Kevin Johnson will have to man the outside spots with Tavierre Thomas and M.J. Stewart getting chances at the nickel. Mitchell has been a consistent starter from Week 1 and will be counted on to lead the corners Sunday.
In the linebacker room, look for Mack Wilson, Jacob Philips and Malcolm Smith to step up alongside B.J. Goodson as the team has to replace the surging Takitaki, who was playing the best football of his career. With running back James Robinson leading the Jags with more than 100 total yards per game, the linebackers will be busy and must be key to a strong defensive performance.
Joe Woods' defense has consistently made huge plays, and I expect they will once again. Who the hero will be remains to be seen, but each week you can count on someone stepping up, and that is another key to victory over the Jags.
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Get out to a big lead early and follow our script
The Browns are undefeated this year when leading after the first quarter, leading at halftime or leading after three quarters. In six of the team's seven wins this season, the Browns were up at the half and handled their business to earn the win. Getting out to a quick start will also help the "here we go again" mentality set in for the lowly Jaguars.
Getting the lead early will also force the Jaguars to abandon Robinson and their surprisingly solid rushing attack, thus putting the ball squarely into the hands of Mike Glennon and the passing game. The Jags receiving corps has been decimated by injuries, and they will be without their leading receiver D.J. Chark as well as fellow starter on the outside Chris Conley. Slot receiver Keelan Cole (453 yards) is the only starter active for the team at receiver, and they do not have another wide receiver or tight end with 325 yards or two receiving touchdowns on the season.
An early lead would also enable the Browns to lean on their elite ground game, which is the best in the NFL when both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are in the lineup. The Browns are now 6-1 with that combo, and they have been absolutely relentless in putting games away in the fourth quarter. Chubb has rushed for 229 yards and two scores in the final period on a league-leading 14.3 yards per carry. No, that is not a typo. Chubb is averaging 14.3 yards per carry in the fourth quarter, folks! Hunt has rushed for a ridiculous 295 yards and two scores in the fourth quarter himself at a very strong, but human, 5.5 yards per carry.
Get the lead, feed the rock to Chubb and Hunt and get on the plane at 8-3.