This week, the Cleveland Browns take on the New York Jets in Week 8 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.
- The Browns’ quarterback situation has been disrupted this season due to injury after injury. For the Jets, though, there has been a divide with Ryan Fitzpatrick. First, he held out a long time before finally agreeing to a one-year, $12 million deal. The season started off well enough for Fitzpatrick, but things took a downward spiral in Week 3 when he threw six interceptions. Two weeks later, he was picked off three more times.
- Our Jets affiliate says that Fitzpatrick has locked on to WR Brandon Marshall too much, doesn't have the arm strength he used to (perhaps because he sat out all offseason), and he's making very poor decisions. On the season, he has 6 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions. It got so bad that Todd Bowles made the (wrong, in my opinion) decision to start Geno Smith last week. Smith got hurt and Fitzpatrick answered the bell. The damage is already done, though, and every mistake that Fitzpatrick makes will come under heavy scrutiny, and he’s playing with the belief that the organization does not have his back.
- Josh McCown makes his return to action this week, battling back from a shoulder injury suffered in Week 2. If you recall, he began that game by leading three straight touchdown drives, but he kept taking shots to his shoulder that limited him the rest of the game. Health issues and win-loss record aside, McCown has been one of, if not the best quarterback, since the team returned in 1999. For the first time in weeks, we might see the return of the deep ball too.
- Matt Forte may be up there in age, but you have to respect the fact that he is still willing to be a workhorse back. In both of the team's victories this season -- Week 2 at Buffalo and last week against the Jets -- he carried the ball 30 times for 100 yards.
- The thing that should jump out is that, from a yards per carry perspective, the Jets aren’t doing too well. Forte is at 3.5 YPC. Bilal Powell is the team’s backup, but he hasn’t been too involved in the running game — maybe 3-4 carries a week.
- Forte has always been known as a complete back. He has 18 catches for 147 yards on the year, which is below the norm for him. That's because Powell has taken on the receiving back role with 24 catches for 156 yards. Neither back is doing groundbreaking stuff as a receiver, though.
- Thanks to Kevin Hogan’s big day last week as a read-option quarterback, the Browns are the second highest yards per carry team in the NFL at 5.05 yards per touch. We saw Isaiah Crowell get some more open holes last week, but with more offensive line changes possibly on the way and the Jets featuring one of the top-ranked run defenses in the NFL, the ground game will have things pretty tough this week.
- If Cleveland has to go pass-heavy, Duke Johnson can have some success against the Jets' defense. In Week 4, Christine Michael had 5 catches for 32 yards against them. In Week 5, Le'Veon Bell had 9 catches for 88 yards against them.
Wide Receiver / Tight End
- The Jets’ receiving corp took a bit hit when Eric Decker went on injured reserve, but that didn’t leave them empty handed. Everyone knows how good Brandon Marshall is, and if Joe Haden can’t go, then for the second straight week I question whether anyone in our secondary can match up against him. Marshall has 30 catches for 472 yards and 2 touchdowns.
- The team’s leading receiver when it comes to receptions, though, is Quincy Enunwa. He has 32 catches for 409 yards and 2 touchdowns. I think he’s shown some nice glimpses of being a high-caliber No. 2 receiver. At 6-2, 225 lbs, he's another big body for the Jets to have confidence in.
- One thing Cleveland doesn't have to worry about this week is the tight end. For the entire season, the Jets' tight ends have a combined 3 catches for 26 yards. I promise, that is not a typo. It’s a two-man, two-running back show in terms of receivers who are involved in the passing game.
- The Jets literally have two receiving threats and no one else, so it’s a bit sad that I can’t rank Cleveland better or at least even as them. I would’ve made them even if I thought Terrelle Pryor was healthy, and would have given Cleveland the edge if Corey Coleman had been back. Coleman is still at least a week away from returning, and Pryor is still expected to be limited.
- New York’s secondary has not played well, and with the veteran McCown back, this is a chance for Ricardo Louis to get some downfield action. He was drafted for his speed, so it’s time for us to see it. Tight ends have had some success against the Jets’ defense and Gary Barnidge was a favorite target of McCown’s last year, so he might see his first touchdown of the year.
- The Jets' starting offensive line typically includes LT Ryan Clady, LG James Carpenter, C Nick Mangold, RG Brian Winters, and RT Ben Ijalana. Mangold is doubtful for this week’s game, which means Wesley Johnson would start in his place. Jets fans have been fairly content with Johnson’s play, but it’s still not at the level of Mangold.
- Clady is dealing with a shoulder injury right now, but I think he’ll play this week. He and Carpenter have played pretty well on the left side, while Winters and Ijalana have been less consistent on the right side. Overall, the Jets don’t run block or pass block particularly well, but it’s not a revolving door type of situation.
- LT Joe Thomas will be dealing with his nagging knee injury the rest of the season. He is the type of veteran who will continue to play through it, but in some cases you can tell his game is just a hair off.
- The rest of the offensive is a bit shaky. Despite leaving with a mysterious illness last week, Cameron Erving will be back at center this week. Spencer Drango is the new starting left guard on the depth chart, but he was limited by a knee injury during practice. We might see Alvin Bailey back at left guard. John Greco would remain at right guard, and then at right tackle, we don’t know if Shon Coleman will receive a few more incremental reps in place of Austin Pasztor or not.
- The Jets currently have a little more stability on the offensive line, but I feel neither unit is a significant upgrade over the other, hence the “even” ranking.
- If the Jets win this week, there is no doubt in my mind that it will be because of their defensive line. Their defensive line consists of DE Leonard Williams, DT Steve McLendon, and DE Muhammad Wilkerson.
- Wilkerson has been a top-tier player for years, although he’s had a few mediocre games in 2016. He missed last week’s game to injury, but might be able to play this week. McLendon will rotate in as needed. The most impressive player of the group this year has been Williams, the No. 6 overall pick of the draft who has six sacks already. Sheldon Richardson, a beast in his own right, has taken on a hybrid lineman/outside linebacker role despite his massive size.
- Danny Shelton is coming off of his least impactful game of the year, and the rest of the line is starting to show some rather underwhelming play as well. But he has a chance to control the line of scrimmage this week against a Jets team that doesn’t run the ball at a high clip.
- Can Carl Nassib snap out of his current state of oblivion? It seems like it’s been so long since Cleveland has had a high quality defensive end, and the Jets have two of them.
- With ILB Darron Lee out this week, the Jets will fill that void with Julian Stanford while David Harris continues to occupy the other starting spot. At outside linebacker, Sheldon Richardson is seeing some action there, with Lorenzo Mauldin also playing a large role on the outside.
- The outside linebackers and depth in general there don’t generate a pass rush, which puts them as “even” with the Browns in my opinion. Harris is a solid veteran player, but with Lee out, they are digging into their depth chart too.
- Emmanuel Ogbah has three sacks in two games, and I hope we continue to see Ray Horton mix things up with him on the left side of the field, going up against teams’ right tackles. If nobody on our roster can succeed against left tackles, then we might as well take advantage of our top pass rusher from the other side.
- Joe Schobert’s playing time was cut to almost nothing last week, and Ray Horton hinted that players are getting the playing time they deserve based on performance. I think that’s a bit of an unfair slight to him.
- The Jets’ starting secondary usually features Darrelle Revis and Buster Skrine at cornerback. Skrine is out this week, which means Marcus Williams may slide into a starting role. Revis had a very rough start to the season, but has leveled things out to where he’s once again the best player in their secondary. Unfortunately for Jets fans, he’s still not playing like a shutdown cornerback, creating similar frustrations that Cleveland fans would have about a guy like Joe Haden.
- If you thought Cleveland’s secondary has given up big plays, the Jets are similar in that regard. Whether it be their cornerbacks or the lackluster play of safeties Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor, not much is going right for them.
- Haden and Jamar Taylor both have groin injuries and are questionable, so it’s unclear who will play cornerback for the team this week. We might see one, both, or neither of them, with Tramon Williams filling a spot somewhere. It’s times like this where, as bad as he was, I think I would’ve rather continued throwing Justin Gilbert in the fire to see if he could gain some confidence.
- Both teams have had poor safety play, and the cornerback play has been below average. Even though some may feel the Jets have the best overall player in Revis, that isn’t enough to definitively give the Jets the edge in the secondary.
- Nick Folk is the Jets’ kicker. He’s been pretty accurate in recent years and is 12-of-14 on field goals in 2016. The team’s issue on special teams comes with their punter, Lachlan Edwards, who ranks near the bottom of the league in average and net average. Cleveland would actually have a slight edge at the punter position with Britton Colquitt.
- The Jets’ top kickoff and punt returner is WR Jalin Marshall. With the way special teams works these days, guys just don’t get very many return opportunities. The same can be said for the Browns. It truly is a “No Fun League” when it comes to kickoffs especially. Overall, there isn’t a distinct advantage for either team on special teams either, so I’m calling it even.
This year, we are listing predictions for multiple staff members here at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “This will be the first game I attend in person since the Bengals quick-snapped the Browns in our home opener several years ago. Rain is expected near game time, which could play a factor early on. The thing is that I don’t see it benefiting one team in particular. The Jets are good at stopping the run, and with New York’s limitations in the passing game, I think Cleveland’s defensive front will rebound and also stop the run this week.
That means it’ll come down to a duel between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown. McCown will put his body at risk for the benefit of the Browns again and hit a couple of long passes to open up the field a little more, something we haven’t been able to do with Cody Kessler under center. The Jets will have ‘one of those days’ where things just aren’t going right for them, and Cleveland’s defense will capitalize for the team’s first win of the year.” Browns 27, Jets 20.
Matt Wood: “McCown moves the ball pretty well but the Jets’ defensive line ends up wrecking the run game and finally gets to the passer.” Jets 30, Browns 21.
Jon Stinchcomb: “If the Browns can win a game this season, this is one many are picking as their best shot. I would love to see McCown provide the spark they need just to get rid of the 0 in the win column, but I'll believe it when I see it.” Jets 17, Browns 13.
Zach Miller: “Browns find a way to skank a win. McCown back will prove to give the Browns enough offense to win. I'm feeling a defensive TD will help em get to that 25 points total.” Browns 25, Jets 19.
Josh Finney: “McCown shows flashes in the first half, but runs for his life the entire second half. Offense is more vanilla than Hue has shown to this point, in an effort to slow the game down and not expose his QB. Duke has more yards from scrimmage than Crowell, and Barnidge Is the leading receiver. Haden with a pick.” Jets 27, Browns 16.
Mike Krupka: “Browns offense gets going again but the theme continues that the defense can't get it done.” Jets 34, Browns 27.
Dan Lalich: “Both offenses are bad, so I expect a low scoring, sloppy game. I think the game is going to come down to one big play, and hopefully it will be the Browns that make it.” Browns 11, Jets 5.
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below!