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Browns @ Jets Preview

How will the Jets fare without Sam Darnold? Michael Nania studies the tape
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Here's Jets expert Michael Nania's preview as Gang Green welcome the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football.

Last Game

Jets – lost 16-17 vs. Bills

It goes down in the record books as a disappointing start to the Adam Gase era for the Jets, but a few hours into Sunday afternoon, it did not seem that was going to be the story of the game.

Midway through the third quarter, the Jets held a 16-0 lead over the Bills at MetLife Stadium. The offense had gotten off to a slow start, going scoreless in the first half, but the defense carried the day. They forced turnover after turnover, most notably scoring the first points of the game on a C.J. Mosley pick-six.

However, it all crumbled in the blink of an eye. Mosley left the game, and the Jets defense collapsed. Buffalo scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives following Mosley’s exit, scoring 17 unanswered points to take a 17-16 lead.

The Jets offense showed signs of life early in the third quarter, going on a nine-play, 55-yard drive that was capped off by Le’Veon bell catching a touchdown and a two-point conversion. But when the Bills went up, the Jets offense could not answer.

Browns – lost 13-43 vs. Titans

Following an offseason in which they were the most hyped team in the NFL, the Browns took a blowout loss at home in their season opener.

Similar to the Jets, things did not start off on such a bad foot for the Browns. In fact, they came out and fed off of the excitement immediately. Cleveland went on an eight-play, 88-yard touchdown drive to open up the game, as Dontrell Hilliard punched the ball in for a four-yard score.

However – eerily similar to the Jets – the Browns’ momentum was somewhat halted by a missed extra point on the game’s first touchdown. Cleveland’s Austin Seibert missed the point-after attempt following Hilliard’s game-opening touchdown, and the Browns lead remained 6-0.

Then, the Titans defense took over. The Browns punted on their next four drives, gaining a cumulative total of just 39 yards. On their next drive, Baker Mayfield was dropped in the end zone for a safety. Tennessee took a 12-6 lead into halftime.

Cleveland’s defense was strong for about two-and-a-half quarters, holding Tennessee’s offense mostly in check. With two minutes to go in the third quarter, Baker Mayfield hit David Njoku for a touchdown, cutting the Titans lead to 15-13.

Then, over the final 17:10, everything collapsed for Cleveland. The Titans scored touchdowns on their next three drives, while Mayfield was intercepted three times in the fourth quarter. Tennessee later added a pick-six off of Mayfield, going on a 28-0 run to close the game and secure the 43-13 victory.

State of the Division

Jets – 0-1, T-3rd AFC East, T-8th AFC

Taking a divisional loss in the season opener is a rough blow for the Jets, especially considering that the Bills are a team that they could be competing with for a Wild Card spot down the road. Buffalo will be playing at MetLife Stadium yet again next week, as they’ll be visiting the Giants.

The tanking Dolphins took a 59-10 loss at home to the Ravens, seemingly squashing any hope that they could have a surprisingly competitive season.

New England opened the season with a blowout victory over the Steelers, while also adding Antonio Brown. The Patriots seem primed to dominate this division (and this conference) once again. A 2-0 start seems to be in their future, as they will visit the Dolphins in Week 2.

With two matchups against New England coming up over their next five games, the Jets need to right the ship quickly if they want to stay alive in the AFC East race.

Browns – 0-1, T-2nd AFC North, T-8th AFC

Baltimore was the only AFC North team to claim a victory in Week 1, clobbering the hapless Dolphins. Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown were dominant in their first action together, looking like a duo capable of capturing one of the toughest divisions in football. The Ravens will host the Cardinals in their home opener this Sunday.

As previously mentioned, the Steelers were obliterated by the Patriots in Week 1, taking a 33-3 loss in Foxboro. Pittsburgh will play its first game of the season at Heinz Field next week, as the Seahawks pay their visit to Western Pennsylvania since 2011.

Cincinnati is the only AFC North team that did not receive legitimate playoff hype throughout the offseason, but they were easily the division’s second-most impressive team in Week 1. The Bengals went into Seattle and played the Seahawks well, falling by a score of 21-20. Just like Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Cincinnati will play in its home opener against an NFC West team next week, hosting the 49ers.

The Browns have what looks like an extremely difficult slate coming up following the Jets game. They will host the Rams, then play two road games against the Ravens and 49ers. After that, they’ll host the Seahawks, before going into their bye week. Coming out of the bye, they’ll visit the Patriots and Broncos. This week’s date with the Jets just may be Cleveland’s easiest shot at a victory over the next eight weeks – they had better take advantage, or heavy heat will be thrust upon them for an 0-2 start.

Statistical strengths

Jets – 1st in takeaways

The Jets defense recorded four takeaways against Josh Allen’s offense in Week 1, tying them with the 49ers for the NFL lead. New York also notched a safety, which does not count in the official takeaway total. Additionally, the Jets had one interception wiped away by penalty and another easy interception opportunity dropped. These numbers present a scary matchup for Baker Mayfield, who in Week 1was sacked for a safety and tied for the league lead with three interceptions.

Browns – 13th in rush offense DVOA

There wasn’t much that the Browns did well in their first game, but they did field a solid rushing attack. They ran for 102 yards on 20 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt that ranked 10th-best in the league. Only five percent of their runs were stuffed (no gain or a loss), tied for the league’s lowest rate in Week 1. Altogether, they ranked 13th in Football Outsiders’ rushing offense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).

Statistical weaknesses

Jets – 32nd in yards per pass play

The Jets simply could not move the ball through the air against Buffalo’s stingy defense. The offensive line was manhandled, Sam Darnold struggled under the pressure, and the receivers failed to separate. Thus, New York averaged 3.4 yards per pass play, worst in the league.

It turns out that Darnold was dealing with mononucleosis prior to and during the game, and he will now be missing multiple weeks. The Jets will be turning to Trevor Siemian against the Browns this week. Siemian started 24 games with the Broncos from 2016-17, and posted a 13-11 record. While Siemian does not possess the upside that a healthy Darnold would, the Jets are simply hoping he can do an effective job running the offense and allowing the playmakers to carry the load.

Browns – 27th in opponent passer rating allowed

Cleveland’s defense had a hard time defending Tennessee’s passing game. They allowed a passer rating of 133.3, the sixth-worst mark allowed by any team in Week 1. Marcus Mariota tossed three touchdowns and no interceptions, while throwing for 248 yards on 24 attempts, an average of 10.3 yards per attempt. Most notably, Cleveland allowed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Henry on a screen play.

Matchup of the Game: Odell Beckham vs. Trumaine Johnson

Beckham’s debut as a Cleveland Brown was quiet by his standards, as he caught seven passes for 71 yards. He was also called for an offensive pass interference penalty.

However, he draws an extremely favorable matchup against the Jets secondary this week. In particular, Beckham should feast on the Jets’ No. 1 cornerback, Trumaine Johnson.

Johnson simply does not have the speed to keep up with anybody down the field, so he consistently plays way off the line and gives out a litany of chunk gains in the intermediate range. That right there is Beckham’s bread-and-butter – he has generated a lot of fantasy points in his career grabbing passes on slant, out, and dig routes. This week, he’ll go head-to-head with a cornerback who basically gives those routes away for free.

Beckham could go absolutely nuts against New York’s pillow-soft cornerback group, especially when matched up against Johnson. If the Jets are going to pull off the upset, they need Johnson to pull a rabbit out of his hat and give them at least a respectable performance. Johnson does not need to lock down Beckham –but simply keep him from blowing the game out of reach. If Johnson can do that, the Jets offense should have a chance to win a shootout.

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