This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the New York Jets in Week 2. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
What to Improve Upon for the Browns?
- This offseason, I kept eyeing the Browns’ first four games, thinking that no matter who our quarterback was, we had a legitimate chance of starting the year at 4-0. We need either that, or a 3-1 start, to have a legitimate shot at the postseason, given what’s to come after that.
- In Week 1, I loved the ferocious nature of the defense. We saw Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney make a big-time impact up front, and the cornerbacks were doing their job at guarding receivers in man-to-man coverage. The running game was strong, and we finally got to see a consistent package featuring both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt! So, what went wrong, then?
- Let’s start with Jacoby Brissett. He was much slower than I anticipated — and I don’t mean how fast he runs, but rather he just seemed lanky and a tick slow with some of his decision-making. I guess that’s one of the reasons why reports always said he seldom turned the ball over (not taking risks). But he has to be able to make some more downfield throws if the success of the ground game is to be sustained. He missed big plays to Amari Cooper and Kareem Hunt in the first half. In the second half, I think there was a playaction pass set up for David Njoku on a deep flag route, but Brissett didn’t trust the anticipation and ate it. I don’t expect Brissett to light it up downfield, but he had to show he can do something besides the short bullet passes.
- Defensively, the number one element to improve is the communication among the safeties and cornerbacks.
What the Jets Have to Offer
- Joe Flacco still has an absurdly good career record against the Browns from his time in Baltimore, but he’s not a winning quarterback with this type of Jets team. His decision-making isn’t the sharpest and he can be forced into some long turnovers. The Jets’ offensive line has a solid interior, but their tackles will have a lot of trouble stopping the Browns’ pass rush, which will make it tough for the Jets to move the ball. Jets fans were already calling for Flacco to be benched, but it looks like he’ll start in Week 2. If the Jets face a first half deficit again, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Saleh shakes things up.
- Ahmad Gardner, one of the Jets’ three first-round picks, had a solid camp and Week 1, and figures to draw the assignment of Amari Cooper. Cleveland faces the unique challenge to open the season of having a receiver in Cooper who is used to getting the ball a lot, but Jacoby Brissett may not be looking to get it to him often if he is blanketed in coverage. I’m interested to see if Cleveland can work some crossing routes with Cooper, where Brissett may feel better about leading the ball to Cooper where only he can get to it.
- The Jets out-gained the Ravens last week in yards, 380 to 274. But the Jets are one of those teams that aren’t in position to form complete drives. Even if they string together four or five straight good plays, they will ultimately still stall out. Case in point: last week, they were 2-of-14 on third down. They were also 3-of-4 on fourth down.
- The weather is shaping up to be great for Sunday’s home opener, with temperatures in the mid-80s. Browns fans are surely looking forward to seeing Cade York.
- Demetric Felton made me nervous with his first three punt return attempts last week. He ended up catching the punts cleanly the rest of the game and had some decent returns.
- Whether Jack Conklin plays or not will be a game-time decision again. The Browns have a short turnaround on Thursday, where they’ll play the Steelers. If I had to guess, Cleveland will probably play James Hudson again this Sunday, and then start Conklin on Thursday. That would prevent him from all of a sudden having two games in five days, and would also give him extra time to recover between Weeks 3 and 4.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 6.5 point favorites against the Jets.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “I expect more of the same from the Browns as we saw in Week 1, except that Jacoby Brissett will perform a little better, and we won’t see a blown coverage by the secondary. The Jets won’t give Joe Flacco enough protection to allow their offense to have sustained success. Cleveland will lead in the first half and extend it, rather than letting it slip away again.” Browns 27, Jets 10
Thomas Moore: “The Browns finally gave everyone a look at the first-team offense last week against Carolina - or at least what will pass as the first-team offense for the next 10 weeks - with some mixed results. There were some good things - hello Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt! - and some bad - Jacoby Brissett on deep passes - but in the end, Cleveland still put up 26 points, which is a number they only put up once after Week 5 of last season. With another week of practice and facing a Jets team that is worse than the Panthers, the offense should operate a bit more smoothly this Sunday.
Defensively the Browns were very good against the Panthers outside of two breakdowns in pass coverage that really should not be happening to a defense with so many returning starters. For everyone’s sake, defensive coordinator Joe Woods better get that tightened up in a hurry.
The Jets are bad, head coach Robert Saleh is already feuding with the media, and the Browns are poised to send the fans home happy on Sunday.” Browns 26, Jets 10
Barry Shuck: “Do not for one second that this will be instant “W” in the standings. The Browns are built to run. The Jets are currently third in defending the run. Of course, all it takes is for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to have a field day behind those beefy blockers to propel New York’s rushing defensive stats on a downward spiral. The Jets can throw the ball pretty well and will be their way of moving the ball. Last week, S Grant Delpit had two major errors leaving a man all alone. How will the Browns secondary sort this out because the Jets are going to air it out. If this is not solved, look for a New York win. For now, Cleveland will need to pound it and take the short passing game as one of their tools to produce points on an offensive unit that is not impressive so far.” Browns 20, Jets 17
rufio: “The Jets are a mess. They have a ton of talent on defense and should be well-coached by Robert Saleh, but I don’t know how they plan to score. Joe Flacco threw for over 300 yards last week, but it took him 59 (!) passing attempts to get there. I believe that Garrett Wilson is going to be a huge threat in the NFL, but I am not sure the Jets can use him in their current state. The Panthers’ OTs were absolutely torched by Myles and Jadeveon last week, and I expect the Jets to have an even rougher time against those two.
The Browns have major issues in the passing game, but last week Stefanski and AVP were able to scheme up the running game to great effect. The Panthers presumably knew that was coming, and they couldn’t stop it (I really do not understand the Carolina gameplans on either side of the ball, as they also often assigned a TE or back to block Myles…). Nick Chubb continues to have my vote for best RB alive, and every lineman except Jed played above expectation vs the run. Jacoby Brissett displayed a number of encouraging “savvy veteran” traits—he flashed excellent ball placement in the short game, and manipulated the opposing safeties with his eyes. But his arm talent was just not that great in week 1.” Browns 20, Jets 13
Ezweav: “The win last week meant more than the score, and no not because of the opposing quarterback. Rather because it looked like a game we were absolutely going to lose, especially since we basically dominated almost all of it. The defense was great, save for about 4 bad plays, and the offense was way more productive than at least I expected.
Thus all is feeling good as the hapless Jets come limping into town after having been smacked around by the Ravens at home last week. Joe Flacco being the starter is one problem they have, but another (and much bigger one) is that they’re down to George Fant at LT, and even he is questionable and that means it’s possible that their fourth string option is going to be lining up to try to stop Myles Garrett. None of this augurs well for the New York offense.
Defensively, they might be a bit more stout against our downhill rushing attack than were the Panthers last week. However like us they had their fair share of blown coverages so perhaps some opportunities open up for Jacoby Brissett to hit some deep balls.
This might be the only game until week 13 where you feel like the Good Guys just have the decided advantage in every area - maybe even at quarterback. There’s every reason to expect Cleveland to move to 2-0.” Jets 18, Browns 16
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.