Game #15 Preview – Browns @ Jets
With the Ravens’ victory on Monday night, the matchup in New Jersey features two teams not headed to the postseason in 2013. Despite that, the Jets still have something to play for – including the job security of head coach Rex Ryan. Also, the home squad is looking for the continual improvement of rookie quarterback Geno Smith; who has been wildly inconsistent. For the road team, it’s an excellent opportunity to get off their five-game losing streak after starting 4 – 5. Let’s take a deeper look into a contest that will be played at the future site of this year’s Super Bowl.
Offense: Last week, the Panthers limited Cam Newton’s throws against the Jets and relied a good deal on their running game. The signal caller was still effective – completing sixteen of his twenty-four throws for 273 yards and a score (with no turnovers). I would like to see the Browns replicate this type of play calling, but as many fans know has not been the case all season long. Jason Campbell will likely heave several throws in this contest; I understand the weather will likely be poor, but the offense should utilize deeper patterns. In addition to not turning the football over (obviously), the quarterback must get his top guys more involved than last week if the team wants to succeed. Campbell will go over the 250-yard mark passing, toss a score or two and limit his mental lapses, to hopefully zero.
Edwin Baker had a decent outing, considering his limited opportunities, last week for the Browns (only eight carries). Chud stated that the running back earned the coach’s respect and one would assume this means increased chances at rushing the football. We will find out on Sunday if Chud is true to his word, of if he was simply placating the media and fan base. The Jets surrendered 131 yards on the ground last week – perhaps Baker and Chris Ogbonnaya can have solid outings for the visiting team. Fozzy Whittaker’s role with the team has lessened as of late, and I anticipate this will continue on Sunday. The speedster might see a pitch or two outside the tackles, but anything more than that would be a surprise. MarQueis Gray should get a few touches as well; the former quarterback has been able to pick up yards in chunks this season. Another touchdown by this group and I would be content; clearly they have not been setting the bar too high.
As previously mentioned, Josh Gordon should be the primary target on a multitude of throws. The receiving corps for the Browns has suffered when not doing this; there’s no reason why the Baylor target is not getting several passes thrown his way (regardless of coverage). Jordan Cameron and Greg Little are the only other two options who will have a shot at hauling in passes and collecting yardage. The former has been up-and-down over the past few weeks (and is battling a concussion from last week), but I have faith he can breeze by the pair of former Ravens in Dawan Landry and Ed Reed – assuming he plays. The latter is a huge question mark and while I do not expect a lot from the wide out, maybe facing rookie Dee Milliner in coverage can provide an advantage to the veteran. Touchdowns will more than likely come from this group, they need at least two here if they want to score the victory.
Following a solid contest, the offensive line will likely have their issues against a Rex Ryan-led defense. The opponent is coming off a game with four sacks, and I expect this week’s total to be similar to that. Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace, and Muhammad Wilkerson have done a fair amount of damage on the outside of the line – including combining for fifteen tackles, two sacks, and a pair of hits on Cam Newton last week. Mitchell Schwartz will probably yield a takedown or two of Campbell from this trio. On the inside, Sheldon Richardson has been stout and will give problems to Alex Mack and the two guards. Blitzes should come up the middle and I am not confident the Browns can block all the defenders.
Defense: The defensive front cannot have the type of futility stopping the run as they did against the Bears. The Jets feature Chris Ivory, who has not put up great rushing days but is relentless at getting the “tough yards”. Maybe the injury to Desmond Bryant was bigger than many had anticipated. Billy Winn and John Hughes have played decently, but it’s imperative they are not a distinct weak link alongside Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin. The Jets still have the likes of Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson upfront, so the odds of getting past the opponent (at least up the middle on or the right side) will be a tall order. However, if the defensive line for the Browns can win those battles, the home team will likely have to be more reliant upon the interception-prone Geno Smith – where anything can happen.
The quarterback of the Jets was taken down four times in his last ballgame; half of those were by the front seven. My faith and patience have been tested with the Browns’ outside linebackers, who were expected to get sacks on a weekly basis. However, this has been far from the case and I have trouble believing Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo will take down the nimble Smith. Craig Robertson will likely have to cover tight end Jeff Cumberland, who is coming off a game where he led the Jets in receiving yards and had their only touchdown through the air. The task is not impossible and I expect the receiving option to be limited. I am worried that D’Qwell Jackson will be the only guy who can make stops between the tackles from the linebacker position, however.
This is a huge step down from the wide receiving group of the Chicago Bears; the Jets feature a few guys who are not game-changers. David Nelson, Santonio Holmes, and Jeremy Kerley are the top three guys – and it could be argued that the best days in the NFL are behind the first two targets. However, without the services of Joe Haden (which is possible) this matchup could go either way. Leon McFadden and Julian Posey would have to step up in his absence but they have to prove to everyone that they are worthy of playing on an NFL defense. I think the secondary will give up a pair of touchdown throws, but the group will not allow a long play – like last week. The production of the safeties has been much improved as of late. T.J. Ward will continue to be active in run support, while Tashaun Gipson must make sure to be in the right spots (like last contest) when passes are in the air.
Special Teams: I would give the Jets the edge in the return games, as they feature Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson (who have excelled) to bring back the ball in special teams. The kicking and punting matchups appear to be even between Nick Folk and Billy Cundiff, as well as Ryan Quigley and Spencer Lanning. I think one team makes a critical error in this department, tipping the scales for the opponent; i.e. poor coverage, botched snap, etc. (I’m leaning towards the Browns being the culprit).
Coaching: I figure Rex Ryan will pull out a couple of tricks up his sleeve in New Jersey. The coach may fake a punt, use some wildcat formations, or devise other schemes to confuse the Browns. Chud and Horton should recognize this and prepare for any and all options by home team. For no other reason, running the ball frequently should occur in order to evaluate Baker and Ogbonnaya going forward. The team may not be sure about the future of these guys – I feel the front office already knows the direction of the quarterback position.
Prediction (My Record: 8 – 6): I envision this as another close matchup between the two franchises. Going back and forth would not be surprising, but the Browns have displayed a knack to falter at the end of games. This ineptitude rears its ugly head once again and the home team pulls out a 24 – 20 victory.