Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Cleveland Browns Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8, 5-10 ATS) at Cleveland Browns (4-11, 9-6 ATS), NFL Week 17,
Browns Stadium Cleveland, Ohio Sunday January 3rd, 2010 1:00 PM Eastern

By Jay Horne of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Jacksonville +3/Cleveland -3
Over/Under: 38

The Jacksonville Jaguars were just embarrassed last week by the New England Patriots. The Jaguars needed a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive and actually a victory would have earned them a wildcard spot heading into week 17 thanks to Denver’s loss to Philadelphia. However, the Jaguars did not show up to play football and were shut out in the first half by an embarrassing score of 28-0. The Jaguars offense only managed a late score in the 4th quarter to prevent being shut out of the entire game as the Patriots rolled to a 35-7 win. The Jaguars now look to redeem themselves from the lackluster performance last week and seek to finish the year at .500 if they can take down the Cleveland Browns this Sunday in the regular season finale.

The Jaguars could still make the playoffs, but they would need all five 8-7 teams to lose this weekend and beat the Browns. Just beating the Browns may be a difficult task in itself. Despite any type of passing game, the Browns have strolled to 3 straight wins including a 23-9 victory over Oakland last week. The Browns running game has exploded behind tailback Jerome Harrison who has picked up 434 yards and 4 touchdowns in the last two games alone. The Browns running game will now attack the Jacksonville defense up front in attempt to score their 4th straight victory. The Jaguars relinquished 197 yards on the ground last week to a Patriots offense that is anything but a rushing offense. Now the same Jaguars defense has to slow down one of the hottest new running attacks in the league if they are to hold on to any postseason hopes.

It may be rather surprising that so much early action is going on the Browns that sport the worse defense in the NFL. Cleveland has allowed 393 yards of total offense on average this season. However, the Browns have held teams to fewer than 10 points in 2 of their last 3 games. The question is which Browns defense will take the field this weekend? One common theme that has occurred over the season is the Browns have really struggled against strong passing offenses and been able to contend with the strong rushing teams. Jacksonville is sort of a balanced offense that can get big help from running back Maurice Jones-Drew as well as quarterback David Garrard. However, considering those trends the Browns will hope that Garrard has a sub par performance.

Garrard is coming off a performance against New England where he completed 19 of 24 passing for 185 yards, but tossed 2 interceptions without a touchdown. Garrard has struggled over the past few weeks similar to the New England game, but he will have every opportunity to have a big day against the Browns. Maurice Jones-Drew will be used quite frequently against the Browns defense.

Jones-Drew ranks 5th in the NFL with 1309 yards total on the season equaling the best season of his career. However outside of the important figures on offense, the Jaguars simply need to stop the run on defense. Browns QB Derek Anderson has thrown 9 interceptions and only 3 touchdowns this year so needless to say the Browns have little confidence in their passing game. However, with the Browns rushing offense behind Harrison exploding the Jaguars must stop the run. For the Jaguars it is simple, stop the run and win. If not it will be their 5th loss in the last 6 games.

Jay’s Pick – Jaguars +3