Browns fans have been looking forward to this game against the Jacksonville Jaguars for months now.
A brutal stretch of elite opponents is over, and now the schedule gets softer for a few games.
Suddenly though, I don’t feel so good about this game. Here’s why:
1) The Browns were due for some injuries, and now they’re finally here.
Scott Fujita, Sheldon Brown, Billy Yates, and Josh Cribbs, headline a long list of guys missing practice this week. Are the Browns deep enough to play at a high level without these guys?
You could argue these injuries came at the right time however. The Browns are finally playing some teams they’ll have some margin of error against i.e., they aren’t playing five straight games within the top 10 of ESPN’s Power Rankings.
2) The Browns have played to the level of their competition all year, and I worry they may come out flat against a more mediocre Jags team. This game isn’t nearly as sexy as their last five contests, and that brutal loss to the Jets might be tough to forget about.
3) It’s a road game. The Browns haven’t played away from Cleveland since they went to New Orleans on October 24th. That will be a month ago come Sunday, so it’s possible they struggle to adjust.
However, it’s not like this Florida crowd is going to intimidate, in fact they stink.
4) But, my main concern here is the Browns are going to be playing in conditions that DO NOT suit them.
We’ve heard over and over this team will improve once the cold weather sets in, and I tend to agree with that. We all saw how well they played in December last year.
The cold weather puts an emphasis on toughness and the running game, not the speed the Browns lack. Too bad its almost December now, and the forecast in Florida is calling for 76 degrees and sunny. I don’t like it.
Think about the games the Browns played this year against Tampa Bay and Atlanta, both in unusually warm weather:
They put up zero points in the second half of both games because their offense overheated, their starting quarterback was seriously injured both times, and they lost both games.
Joe Thomas, I am looking at you.
In the Browns two hot games you’ve given up the sacks that caused Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace’s high ankle sprains. That cannot happen to Colt McCoy. Let’s hope the Browns’ steadily improving coaches have noticed these trends and are taking steps to avoid them.
Remember guys, no high ankle sprains.
Of course, the Browns have some things going for them that they didn’t have in those two losses:
- Colt McCoy had not revitalized the season yet.
- Jerome Harrison wasn’t traded until after the Atlanta game, so Peyton Hillis mania hadn’t swept the nation yet.
- And, the Browns in the early going didn’t know what their identity was. There are a lot of new pieces here, and sometimes they take time to gel.
The Browns have been competitive in all their games so that’s a good sign. But along with the emergence of Colt McCoy, the prevailing thought is the Browns have sort of figured themselves out now.
Also, the Jaguars are not good. They might play a good game next Sunday, they might be gelling late like the Browns are, they might have some matchup advantages with Mercedes Lewis and/or David Garrard the Browns haven’t seen yet, etc.
But their schedule has been deceivingly easy, where the Browns’ has been deceivingly hard.
The Jaguars have one quality win, defeating the Indianapolis Colts at home in Week 4. Their other wins have come against bad teams in Denver, Buffalo, Dallas, and Houston (yes, defeating the 4-5 Texans on a hail marry does not count as a quality win). The Colts are the one opponent they’ve defeated with a winning record.
The Browns have two less wins overall, but have defeated two teams with winning records.
Plus, the Jags statistically are what they are. They are 6th in the league in rushing, so that good. But they are 27th in passing offense, 29th in passing defense and 21st in rushing defense. Really, the Browns should win this one.
And maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m worried because this is the first game since Week 1 or 2 where the Browns should be expected to win.
They’ve played great as the underdog, how are they going to handle expectations?