Cleveland Browns vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 10th 2023

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Earlier this season, a December date for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns was viewed as a matchup of two of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks.

Instead, a battle of backup quarterbacks is likely in Cleveland on Sunday.

Last month, Cleveland starting quarterback Deshaun Watson was placed on injured reserve and was declared out for the season with a broken bone in his throwing shoulder. Joe Flacco, the fourth starter at the position for Cleveland this season, is in line to get a second consecutive start this week with Dorian Thompson-Robinson limited by a concussion.

Flacco took the first-team reps in practice Wednesday and Thursday, and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said he can envision using both quarterbacks if Thompson-Robinson is ultimately cleared.

On Monday, Jaguars starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence suffered a high ankle sprain in a home loss to Cincinnati that caused him to be in a walking boot and on crutches after the game. He didn’t practice on Wednesday, when he said he’ll rehab “around the clock” in hopes of being available to face the Browns.

If Lawrence can’t play, backup C.J. Beathard will get the starting nod for a Jacksonville team (8-4) that is one game up on Indianapolis and Houston for first place in the AFC South.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said the team is preparing for both Lawrence and Beathard to play for the Jaguars.

“There’s tape on both guys,” Stefanski said. “With Beathard, there’s tape on him as well. We know what his strengths are. He led the team the other night and put them in position. He’s a very heady football player.”

Neither Jags quarterback will have leading receiver Christian Kirk. He suffered a core muscle injury on Monday and is expected to miss the next 6 to 8 weeks.

The timing of such injuries is never good, but it’s downright awful for the Jaguars given they are going up against a Cleveland defense this week that might be the best in the NFL.

The Browns have allowed the fewest yards per game in the NFL at 260.5.

Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson said players understand it’s time to step up.

“It’s something that I preach quite a bit to the guys here,” Pederson said. “You get later in the season, the guys that are in backup roles or guys that are maybe those core special team players, now get opportunities to play on offense or defense. It’s their time to go. It’s their time to play. It’s on the coaches to make sure these players are prepared and the coordinators making sure the plays that are in the game plan are ones that they can handle and they are familiar with. It’s always been a next man up mentality regardless of position. That might be the case again this week.”

Cleveland (7-5) enters in a tie for second in the AFC North with Pittsburgh, two games behind Baltimore.

The Browns have lost two in a row, the latest setback being a 36-19 defeat at the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Cleveland had to turn to Flacco against the Rams but wants to lean on its defense to win games.

But that group is also banged up. Leading pass rusher Myles Garrett is playing through a shoulder injury and top cornerback Denzel Ward sat out the last two weeks with a shoulder issue. Ward was able to practice Wednesday and Thursday.

–Field Level Media

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