Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets

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Game: Cleveland Browns (7-5) vs. New York Jets (3-9)
Where: The Meadowlands (East Rutherford, NJ)
When: 4:15 PM EST
Announcers: Dick Enberg & Randy Cross (CBS)

Is it do or die time for the Cleveland Browns? Yes, but not in the same way it has been in the past few years. Last year, it would've been "do or die time" because our only chance to make the postseason would've been if we had won every single game remaining and the teams ahead of us would've lost every single game. Now, we're in the reverse position, and it's our job to hold on to a wildcard spot with a victory over a 3-9 Jets team that is hurting with a couple of injuries. With that said, the Jets are playing their best football of the season, having won two of their past three, including a 19-16 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers three weeks ago.

Continuing my trend, I'm going to highlight a couple of other games to watch today. These games will have the most significant impact on the Browns' playoff chances:

San Diego Chargers (7-5) vs. Tennessee Titans (7-5): The Titans are basically tied with us for the wildcard spot in the long run, meaning we have to hope that a talented team like the San Diego Chargers are able to do a favor for us on gameday. It's a shame that CBS is showing us Oakland vs. Green Bay here in Cleveland for the morning game, because it'd make more sense to show the Chargers battle the Titans since it directly impacts our playoff hopes. Albert Haynesworth vs. LaDainian Tomlinson is a key match-up here, but I think each player will have their fair share of impact on the opposition. The Titans' run offense has struggled as of late, and the Chargers have thrived at stopping the run. In this game, you can bank on the Chargers providing us with a one-game cushion in the wildcard race..

Miami Dolphins (0-12) vs. Buffalo Bills (6-6): It's really not even worth considering an upset here. The Miami Dolphins haven't shown the ability to take control of a game, and Marshawn Lynch is going to be back at running back for the Bills. Trent Edwards is 4-1 as Buffalo's starting quarterback, and chances are he'll be 5-1 heading into next week's huge game against the Browns. You can count on the Bills decimating the Dolphins here.

Now, here's the preview for the showdown between the Browns and the Jets...

OFFENSE

Category Browns Jets
Points Scored 28.0 (4th) 18.4 (24th)
Passing 247.7 (9th) 186.3 (25th)
Rushing 105.8 (16th) 102.1 (19th)
Total Offense (yards) 353.5 (6th) 288.4 (25th)

DEFENSE

Category Browns Jets
Points Scored 28.2 (32nd) 24.2 (25th)
Passing 258.4 (30th) 210.3 (11th)
Rushing 131.5 (28th) 141.1 (29th)
Total Defense (yards) 389.9 (32nd) 351.3 (25th)
- Quarterback
Derek Anderson and Kellen Clemons faced each other several times in their pre-NFL careers, making for an intriguing matchup heading into this game. Both quarterbacks are really in their first true years as being able to orchestrate a starting offense for more than a game at a time, and Anderson is clearly further along. Much of that may have to do with having more electric weapons at the receiver position and protection up front, but it counts nonetheless. The big factor the Browns have to key in on is pressuring Kellen Clemons. Clemons is being sacked an average of three times per game, and that has played a factor in his inability to get the ball down the field as much as he'd like to (because he can throw a good deep ball when compared to Chad Pennington).
- Running Back
Run the ball with Jamal Lewis. Run the ball with Jamal Lewis. Run the ball with Jamal Lewis. That's all I keep hearing in respect to what the Browns need to do this week on offense. Do I agree? Yes and no. Yes, we need to run the ball a lot with Lewis, but I don't like starting off the game with it. The Browns are much more explosive when throwing the football, and if we're aggressive right away I think we can jump out with a lead on the road and then pound it out against a poor Jets run defense. On the other side of the field, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington have combined for a fair, but not even close to dominating duo for the Jets offense. If the Browns build up a lead early, we should be able to neutralize the Jets' ground attack.
- Receiver
The Jets' defensive backs took some heat coming into the season. They needed to improve at the position and drafted the appropriate man in Darrelle Revis. It's taken awhile, but Revis is finally coming along and starting to look like a quality starting defensive back. That may limit the amount of big plays Braylon Edwards is capable of, calling for a big day from Joe Jurevicius. Kellen Winslow didn't receive enough first-half looks last week against the Cardinals; hopefully that changes this week. The Jets have two good receivers in Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles, but both of them are banged up right now. Cotchery probably will not play, and Coles won't be at full speed. Former quarterback Brad Smith could start opposite Coles at receiver.
- Offensive Line
Last year, I admired the Jets offensive line because they were able to draft both D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold for their offensive line. The duo helped solidify the team's line last year en route to the postseason. However, it's the Browns that have had the better offensive line by far this season. The Jets' line has given up a total of 35 sacks this season, where as the Browns have given up 11 sacks under Derek Anderson. The Jets' running game numbers are a little skewed in terms of yards per game because they often hand the ball off rather than passing it. Jones is averaging 3.6 yards-per-carry and only has one rushing touchdown. The Jets have trouble in short yardage run situations, something the Browns' defensive line has excelled at.
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Defensive Line
If I see Simon Fraser starting again this week, I'm going to be very concerned. The combination of Robaire Smith, Shaun Smith, and Orpheus Roye impresses me, and I think they can force the same type of pressure they did two weeks ago against the Houston Texans today against the Jets. The Jets have some pretty good pass rushers in Dewayne Robertson and Shaun Ellis, but they can be beaten on the ground. When the Browns do decide to run the ball, attacking the left side of the defense will be critical in Lewis' success. Don't be surprised if we see Lewis break a big run on a counter like he did against the Bengals earlier this season.

- Linebacker
Again last week, I liked the early pursuit that the Browns' linebackers had on Edgerrin James. It was only late in the game that things started to crumble, something I believe would've been stopped had we had more defensive linemen to rotate in the game. The Jets took a big hit at the linebacker position when Jonathan Vilma went out with an injury earlier this season. Ever since then, the unit hasn't been nearly as sharp, and the opposing team's rushing numbers have resembled that. I doubt this will happen, but I think the Jets are a team that we can throw some confusion at by blitzing a person they don't expect. Who? Chaun Thompson. Again, doubt it will happen, but the potential exists.
- Secondary
The Browns would get a big lift with the return of Eric Wright this week. While Brandon McDonald has been very good the past two weeks, having an extra body available provides the Browns with more versatility. They'd be able to decide between a hot McDonald or a mediocre Daven Holly in nickel back situations if they so choose. The Jets have some talent at the cornerback position in rookie Darrelle Revis. The other big factor is safety Kerry Rhodes. Rhodes has four interceptions this season and is capable of Pro Bowl caliber. Anderson can't afford to take risks over the middle if Rhodes is covering, because he's savvy enough to make a play on the ball and kill a drive.
- Special Teams
It's the battle of the AFC's best in kick returners this week between Joshua Cribbs and Leon Washington. Will it be a chess match for each team's kickoff coverage units? The Cardinals obviously frustrated Cribbs last week, so hopefully the Browns' special teams went over some better philosophies during the week on how to react in those types of situations. I'm curious to see how often the Browns kick to Washington, because we haven't been known to really kick away from he opposition, especially with Phil Dawson back there. An underrated player in this game? Dave Zastudil. The Jets can have some spurts where they come together on defense, and if they happens, we need to force the Jets' inept offense to have a long field.

FINAL PREDICTION:
Cleveland Browns 35, New York Jets 21.
The Browns have shown the potential to strike quick, but the thing they need to improve on if they want to be a playoff team is scoring early in games on the road. They fell behind to the Raiders earlier this season on the road, and they fell behind last week against the Cardinals. They were in position to tie or win both games on the final play, but things just barely missed going their way on both occasions. The Jets have won two of their past three games, but hopefully Cleveland's ready to bring out their big plays early this week, setting up the Jamal Lewis for later in the game rather than earlier in the game.

This is the official gameday topic for the Cleveland Browns in Week 14 as they square off against the New York Jets. All comments regarding the game should be posted in this topic. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!!!
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