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Jets vs. Browns Game Preview

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

A New Hope..

After a disappointing 2014 season, two long-suffering franchises enter the 2015 season with some optimism around their teams. These teams finished #1 and #2 in the NFL Pain Rankings and neither has had a winning season in 4 years. The sentiment coming from members of each fanbase appears to be "we have a shot this year, but we better win this gimme in week 1 or it's going to be a long year." So rarely does a week 1 opener have the feeling of a win or go home for the Jets and the Browns. Though the Browns won 3 more games than the Jets last season, the Jets did far more to improve their roster. While the Jets' best offseason acquisition is almost indubitably Darrelle Revis, the Browns' biggest offseason move is a toss up between the perennially disappointing Dwayne Bowe or the "I was good that one time in Chicago don't look at my other NFL experience no srsly im gud" Josh McCown. Both teams are on the wrong side of the 20 in most power rankings and neither team has many fans expecting a Super Bowl ring this year, but with a new season comes new hope. Who knows? Maybe the impossible will happen and one of these teams will have a winning season this year.

The Matchups

This game actually features two teams with well aligned strengths. The Jets have an extremely good defensive line and the Browns' biggest strength is their offensive line. The Jets recently revamped WR group now features Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, while the Browns secondary includes star CB Joe Haden and somewhat of an unsung rising star in Tashaun Gipson. Neither team has a quarterback and both teams have strong defenses with defensive-minded coaches. There should be some great battles to watch on Sunday. Especially the battle in the trenches, where many might expect the Jets to be at a disadvantage without Richardson. After watching the Bills demolish the Browns' OL in preseason, however, I feel that the Jets can make a real impact here. It's definitely going to be a low scoring affair with a lot of running. We're talking about two teams with Revis, Cromartie, and Haden on defensive and Joke McCown and Ryan Fitztragic on offense. Expect to see a lot of power football with Ivory and Crowell.

Injury Report

Jets Thursday Practice (limited)

James Carpenter

Willie Colon

Jarrett, Jaiquawn

Devin Smith

Browns Thursday Practice (limited)

Dwayne Bowe

Johnny Manziel

Nate Orchard

K'Waun Williams

Justin Gilbert

Barkevious Mingo



The biggest X-factor for the Jets has to be Leonard Williams. While he flashed in the second preseason game, he's been limited in practice and missed a lot of time. He's going to have to fill in for Sheldon Richardson, PFF's top ranked 3-4 defensive lineman (J.J. Watt doesn't count because he is probably not human.) Can Williams shine in his first ever NFL game while being expected to replace a Pro Bowl player? And against one of the NFL's best offensive lines, no less? Hopefully Williams can step up to the challenge and provide just enough to soften the blow of losing Richardson for at least the next 4 games.


The Browns' X-factor has to be Tramon Williams in my mind. Haden is going to blanket Marshall for most of the game, but Decker is still an excellent receiver. Can a free agent who has never been much better than average in Green Bay cover one of the best #2 wideouts in the NFL? I expect Williams to get a ton of safety help from Tashaun Gipson, who will likely try to bait turnover-prone Fitzpatrick into some risky throws. Still, I think Decker has a great opportunity to run all over the place unless Williams really steps up his game and impresses on Sunday.

Keys To Victory:

Score more points than the Browns. Fine, you want more? The Browns will likely lock Haden on Marshall, more or less eliminating the Jets' top receiving threat. Tramon Williams and K'Waun Williams are not exactly names that strike fear into quarterbacks, however, meaning that Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley (I guess maybe probably?) will have a lot of room to work. Power running with Ivory and play action to Decker/Kerley should produce well between the 20s, while Marshall's huge size advantage over Haden should make him a good red zone target. The Browns' had one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL last season and I don't believe the additions they've made this year will be enough to completely mitigate that weakness. Heavy workloads for Ivory/Powell/Stacy running between the numbers should set up the play action and churn up yards and clock. Defensively, it's hard to come up with a strategy for such a mismatch. The Jets have Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to lock down an injured Dwayne Bowe and Andrew Hawkins. This may be the best secondary against the worst receiving group in the NFL (not to mention the worst QB at the helm.) The Browns are going to run, run, run, run, run, run, run away. Without Richardson in the lineup, Wilkerson, Harrison, and Williams are going to have to step it up against the run. And expect to see Pryor in the box on just about every play.

The Bottom Line

We're looking at two very similar teams here. Two longsuffering franchises with tempered expectations, two quarterback-less teams with defensive stars, two defensive minded coaches with run first offenses and shutdown corner defenses. While nothing is certain in a new season, neither team looks to be overwhelmingly good this year. Both teams desperately need to start off with a win against a weak team (whole lot of good that did us last season, though.) A loss could cripple morale and nearly derail the season. Just looking at the two rosters, the Jets clearly have more talent. Outside of a stacked offensive line and a couple excellent defensive players, the Browns' roster is pretty terrible. If the Jets have any playoff aspirations at all, they can't afford to lose to the Browns. We really have no idea what we've got in Bowles and a team full of free agents (even if they've been here before), but I'm taking the Jets in this one. Unless you're visiting from the Dawg Pound, I expect you will too.