Today we're going to take a look at a few trends that might come into play in Sunday's game between the NY Jets and the Cleveland Browns. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, or even necessarily the most important trends and matchups to focus on. Rather, it is a highly idiosyncratic look at trends which caught my eye this week and might prove interesting in Sunday's game. Please feel free to supplement this article with any trends you've noticed. Now, let's get to it.
Close But No Cigar
The Browns have been in a colossal downward spiral, losing eight of their last nine games after getting off to a promising 3-2 start. During those last nine games the Browns have been involved in five games decided by a touchdown or less. Their record in those games is 1-4. The Browns have consistently found ways to lose tight games. In contrast, the Jets have been involved in six games all year which have been decided by a touchdown or less. The Jets' record in those games is 5-1. The Jets have made the most of limited opportunities to pull out tight contests. If the Jets can keep this game close, the trends favor the Jets pulling out the victory.
Home Sweet Home
The Browns have played six games on the road this year, and have lost five of the six. The Jets have played seven home games this year, and have won five of the seven. If the Jets manage to win on Sunday, it will represent the 3rd best home record in franchise history, trailing only the Super Bowl season of 1968 and the Vinny and the Jets year of 1998. It will also be only the third time since 1998 and only the seventh time in franchise history the Jets have had as many as six home wins in a season. The home field has not been kind to the Jets through history. But this year has been different. This year home has truly been sweet. Combine that with Cleveland's road woes and the Jets should have an excellent shot at getting that sixth home win.
Ugly Is As Ugly Does
The Browns have been one very ugly team this year. This team has actually outgained its opponents by more than 17 yards per game, yet has been outscored by more than 5 points per game. The last 5 games, all losses, have been particularly ugly, with the Browns giving up 27 points or more in every game and being outscored by nearly 10 points per game, while outgaining their opponents by 46 yards per game over that stretch and outgaining four of the five opponents. That's very difficult to do, yet the Browns have been exceptionally proficient at shooting themselves in the foot. The problems? Turnovers, and a curious inability to stop opponent's quarterbacks from throwing touchdown passes. The Browns have had only one turnover free game in the last nine games played, and have turned the ball over an appalling thirteen times in the last five games. In addition, the Browns have been very good at holding down opponents' passing attacks, only allowing one opponent, the Patriots, more than 261 passing yards all year. This has made the Browns the 9th best pass defense in the NFL in terms of yards allowed. But while the Browns are stingy in allowing yards, they are absolutely full of the Holiday Spirit when it comes to allowing passing TDs. The Browns have given away 26 passing TDs, ranking them 21st in the NFL in that category. So the Browns pass defense amounts to an odd break but don't bend strategy that has left them on the short end of too many scores.
Unfortunately for the Jets, this game shapes up as an Ugly Contest in which the Browns are not necessarily the favorites. The Jets also suffer from a terrible case of turnoveritis, having gone turnover free only two games all year, and nearly matching the Browns turnover for turnover over the last five games, with the Browns barely squeaking out a 13-12 edge in the who can be most generous to the opponents contest. And while the Browns allow a ton of TD passes, the Jets are right behind them at 25 TD passes allowed, good for 19th in the NFL, and the Jets are the worst team in football at throwing TD passes, with a paltry total of just 11 TD passes all year. To make the Ugly Contest even more interesting, the game is likely to be played in wet weather, possibly even thunderstorms and drenching downpours. In what may be a tragicomedy of errors, who knows which pile of ineptitude will prevail?
Alls Well That Tight Ends Well
The Browns cover wide receivers really well, allowing only two wide receivers, Brian Hartline and Jarrett Boykin, over 100 yards receiving all year. A lot of that has to do with the excellent play of CB Joe Haden, who may or may not suit up Sunday. But while the Browns have been really good at containing wide receivers, tight ends have been relatively successful against the Browns all year. Opponents' tight ends have combined for 63 catches, 700 yards and 7 TDs on the year. It is worth noting that those numbers have been compiled despite the Browns not having faced any of the NFL's top 7 tight ends in terms of receiving yards in 2013. Attacking the Browns' pass defense with the tight end has been a good strategy this year, even for teams with mediocre tight ends. The Jets fit the mediocre tight end bill here. Look for Jeff Cumberland and/or Kellen Winslow to be featured prominently in Sunday's game plan, and if they are successful, they may well make the difference in this game. On the other side of the ball, tight end Jordan Cameron has been the Browns' only credible threat in the passing game other than All World wide receiver Josh Gordon. Cameron is suffering from a concussion and may or may not suit up on Sunday. If the Jets do not have to worry about Cameron lighting up their suspect defense against the tight end, it will make the Browns a one dimensional passing attack and should allow the Jets a better chance to at least contain Gordon to a manageable level of inevitable success. If Cameron plays and lights it up, on the other hand, the duo of Cameron and Gordon is very likely to end up being too much for the Jets to handle.