New York Jets at Cleveland Browns
Sunday November 14, 2010, 1:00 PM, EST.
Cleveland Browns Stadium
After escaping Detroit with a win last week, the Jets travel to Cleveland to face another team they are supposed to beat on the road. However, don't expect the Jets to take Cleveland lightly. Not after almost losing to Detroit last week. Not after Cleveland spanked Tom Brady and the Patriots last week. And definitely not with Eric Mangini and Rex's brother Rob Ryan on the other sideline.
The Browns are a team that relies on smart, high character players who play together. They're unlikely to beat themselves, unless the Jets can rattle rookie quarterback Colt McCoy. Instead, they play solid defense and run the ball as well as anyone behind a strong offensive line. Peyton Hillis has been a revelation as one of the most punishing runners in the sport this year. If the Jets tackle well and do the little things correctly, they should win handily. But if the Jets commit a million penalties and turnovers, they will be in a world of trouble.
When the Jets have the ball...
LaDainian Tomlinson and the Jets' running game has not been as strong in recent weeks, so it's widely expected the Jets will give Shonn Greene many more reps this week against a surprisingly good Cleveland run defense. The Browns have some big bodies up front and solid veterans behind them at linebacker that combine to make a run defense that only allows 3.9 yards-per-carry. More impressively, the Browns have allowed just one touchdown on the ground all year. Just 14.7% of opposing hand-offs have gone for first downs. Only the Jets have a better number in that category.
If the Jets plan on just running the ball down the Browns' throats, they could be in for a frustrating day. The way to beat the Browns is by passing the ball. While Cleveland does have 9 interceptions this year, they struggle to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Eric Mangini will come up with a scheme that will give Mark Sanchez some problems, but he should have time to throw. As long as he goes through his progressions and doesn't lock on his first read, he should be able to find open receivers, as Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and Dustin Keller have a talent and experience edge over most of the Browns' outside players. Keller, in particular, could be in line for a big day, as the Browns haven't been great against the tight end all year.
Sanchez will be the biggest key to this game. It's unlikely the Browns dominate the game from an offensive perspective. But if Sanchez doesn't play well, the Browns can control field position with Josh Cribbs and a dangerous return game. As mentioned earlier, the Browns' run defense is stout in the redzone, so the Jets will rely on their quarterback to put touchdowns on the board instead of field goals. Look for the Jets to attack the Browns' aging linebackers with Keller or for Braylon Edwards to make a big impact against his former team. The Browns will frustrate the Jets at times, but the Jets will make enough plays when they have to.
When the Browns have the ball...
On paper, the Cleveland offense doesn't look like much, but this team has an identity, and they are able to run the ball as well as anybody. Peyton Hillis has 644 yards and 7 touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards-per-carry. He is a powerful back at 6-2, 250 pounds, so gang tackling will be key. Pursuit usually isn't a problem for this Jets' defense, as the Jets usually fly around the football.
The Browns know they aren't the most talented offense. This is a team usually focused on getting one first down at a time and not making mistakes. Colt McCoy is a mobile quarterback, and the Browns have some other decent players on this offense that can create occasional mismatches. Hillis has good hands, and he has the ability to make plays in the passing game against linebackers. McCoy also has two athletic tight ends at his disposal in Ben Watson and Evan Moore. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie will mostly be matched up against Mohamed Massaquoi and Chansi Stuckey. Cribbs is also a wild card in this offense who can line up under center and get the ball via reverse or through the air.
The Jets have enough talent on defense, but the Browns have the offensive line and players to give the Jets' defense some problems. McCoy can get out of the pocket and run for first downs, and Hillis is a force to be reckoned with. The Browns probably won't be able to move the ball well enough through the air to put many touchdowns on the board, but if the Jets struggle on offense and keep this game close, the Browns could easily sneak up and win this game offensively.
This is a big gut check for the Jets. Cleveland is coming off wins against New Orleans and New England, so they are riding high. The Jets, on the other hand, haven't played particularly well in weeks. But unlike the Patriots and Saints, the Jets won't take the Browns lightly. The Jets have too many weapons and too many ways to win this game. As good as Hillis is, he will meet his match against the Jets' run defense. Cleveland will move the ball at different points in this game, but not consistently enough to win. However, if the Jets beat themselves with dumb penalties and multiple turnovers, Cleveland will be more than happy to take this game. I'll give the Jets the benefit of the doubt and say that the defense won't allow the Jets to lose this game. McCoy simply doesn't have the big play weapons that Sanchez does, and between Keller, Edwards, and Holmes, one will step up and give the Jets just enough to win.
Jets 20, Browns 16