Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Jaguars upset?

OK, Browns fans, all together now. Click your heels three times and repeat after me.

The Browns will not lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at home. The Browns will not lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at home. The Browns will not lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at home.

Now take a deep breath and pretend you don’t know the Browns have lost five of their last six games and are beginning to look like they have most of the time since the resurrection in 1999.

Now pretend you don’t know the Jaguars have won two of their last three games (both on the road) after dropping their first eight of the season. Yep, those Jaguars.

Entering the game, the Jags are playing better football than the Browns in the last three weeks. And yet, oddsmakers have installed the Browns as seven-point favorites to hand Jacksonville its 10th loss of the season.

Never mind the Jaguars have knocked off the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans to take their November record to 2-1, which is better than the Browns’ 1-2. So why isn’t the smart money tilting Cleveland’s way?

Well, maybe it’s because the Jaguars are a very bad team. Last Sunday’s 13-6 victory over Houston was the first time they held a team under 19 points.

Their offense has scored more than 20 points just once (29-27 against the Titans) and makes the mediocre Cleveland offense look like a bunch of All-Pros by comparison.

Their 142 points for the season (13 a game) is, by far, the worst output in the National Football League. The Browns, as bad as they are with the football, have produced 203.

The Jags defense, which can’t stop the run or pass, allows 29½ points a game and is on pace to permit 471 for the season. Fans of the Titans and Texans have to wonder how in the world they lost to this team.

Certainly, the Browns can beat this awful football team, right? Even with Brandon Weeden at quarterback, this should be a relative walk in the park.

So how bad are the Jaguars? Let’s start with just 175 first downs this season. That’s 16 a game. Then we move on to 3,113 total yards. Seven NFLd quarterbacks have thrown for more yards by themselves.

The offense averages 2.9 yards per pop. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew has racked up 73% of the team’s run total. If the Browns pay attention to any other running back Sunday, shame on Ray Horton.

The Jags have produced just 14 touchdowns, two by the defense, and only seven scoring passes through the air. Quarterback Chad Henne has thrown four of those passes, but has been intercepted nine times.

The offensive line has permitted 37 sacks. But the way the Cleveland pass rush has looked in the last two games (zero sacks), the Jags should not expect that total of rise. Conversely, the defense has sacked opposing quarterbacks just 17 times.

That defense, which has been gouged for 1.468 yards on the ground, has trouble getting off the field. The opposition owns the ball on the average for nearly 33 minutes as game.

So as one can see, Sunday’s battle should amount to a walkover even though the Jags are on what for them is considered a roll. And the Browns are due to bust out of their doldrums.

Never mind that the Jaguars have won nine of the15 games the teams have played since the series began in 1995. After losing the seven of the first eight, including the first six, the Browns have won four of the last six, including three of the last four.

The most famous game of the series was also the most infamous. On Dec. 16, 2001 in what turned out to be a 15-10 Jaguars victory at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Dawg Pound fans vented their wrath by throwing plastic beer bottles at the officials following a decision that robbed the Browns of a chance at a go-ahead touchdown.

Cleveland wide receiver Quincy Morgan appeared to make the fourth-down catch of a short Tim Couch pass at the Jags’ 9-yard line with less than a minute left in regulation. Couch immediately spiked the ball on the next play, which would have automatically eliminated the possibility of looking at a replay.

But referee Terry McAulay called for a replay review after determining the replay official in the press box buzzed him before the Couch spike. He subsequently ruled Morgan did not catch the ball cleanly and the Jags took over on downs.

That’s when the bottles flew and Cleveland once again became a national joke with its crowd behavior. McAulay and his fellow officials walked off the field and declared the game over. But the league office overruled him and the game was finished.

Now we know McAulay won’t officiate Sunday’s game. That’s because he had the Browns-Steelers debacle last Sunday. So . . .

Don’t look for Jags to slow down Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron or give Weeden grief in the pocket. Given all that time, he should be able to calm the boo birds and play representative football. The defense, meanwhile, will finally get a sack. Feeling pretty confident about that one (sarcasm noted).

Repeating the original mantra: The Browns will not lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at home. Of course they won’t. Make it:

Browns 27, Jaguars 13

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