Two perennial cellar dwellers appear on the verge of turning the corner this season. After both selecting a quarterback in the top 3 in the 2018 draft, both teams appear highly hopeful at their outlooks at the signal caller position, even if we are yet to see 1st overall pick Baker Mayfield.
The Lions were dominated by the Jets on Monday Night Football week 1, 48-17, forcing 5 turnovers, and appearing to be a legitimate playoff contender. Well, last week had us pump the brakes on that, as they lost 20-12 to the Dolphins.
The Browns winless streak continues, but there can’t be a better opportunity than Thursday night against the Jets. The Browns have been very competitive with high-level teams through two weeks, tying the Steelers 21-21 and losing to the Saints 21-18, and arguably should have walked away with wins in both.
Oddsmakers have the Browns as 3 point favourites at home, with an Over/Under total of 40.5!
New York Jets
Sam Darnold has been all the talk in New York, as the Jets have been long starved for a franchise quarterback. Darnold has been a rollercoaster through 2 weeks, but has shown a lot of nice traits and promise.
Darnold has thrown for 532 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions through 2 games. He famously started his career on a pick six, but followed it up with 2 touchdowns and a perfect passer rating through the rest of the game.
It’s hard to get a bead on the defense, as the smothering game in week 1 may be more of an anomaly than the norm. Ryan Tannehill didn’t put up big numbers last week, but he didn’t really have to, as Frank Gore, Kenyan Drake, and Tannehill piled up 135 yards on the ground, controlling the clock down the stretch, and taking advantage of the Jets inability to get anything going in the first half.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
S Marcus Maye (foot)- doubtful
A franchise starved of winning has had 2 games back to back essentially won, if not for the right leg of Zane Gonzalez. People pretend special teams doesn’t matter, but it definitely has for the Browns through 2 weeks, as Gonzalez missed 3 extra points and 3 field goals, including a game winner in week 1 and a game tying attempt in week 2.
The Browns offense is solid but unspectacular. Tyrod Taylor continues to be exactly who he has been the last couple years, a conservative quarterback who uses his mobility to his advantage. Taylor has taken a few more risky shots down the field this season, including a 47 yard bomb to Antonio Callaway to tie the game against the Saints.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley has done an excellent job of being creative and using players like Callaway and running back Duke Johnson in a variety of ways. However, the Browns need to spread the ball around more, with Carlos Hyde dominating touches in the backfield, rushing 38 times for 105 yards, good for 2.8 YPC, and 68% of the total touches on designed runs.
The defense has been the talking point, holding two high powered offenses to 21 apiece. Edge Rusher Myles Garrett and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi have provided a potent pass rush thus far, and rookie defensive back Denzel Ward has been validating his draft position. Ward has faced two of the leagues best receivers in Antonio Brown and Michael Thomas in back to back weeks, and has only allowed 9.3 Yards Per Catch into his coverage, and a total of 22 yards after the catch.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah (ankle)- out, LB Christian Kirksey (shoulder)- doubtful, S Damarious Randall (foot)- questionable
Matchups to Watch
Jets WRs vs Browns CB Denzel Ward
Jets OT Kelvin Beachum vs Browns Myles Garrett
Browns WRs vs Jets CBs Trumaine Johnson & Buster Skrine
Browns RBs/TEs vs Jets S Jamal Adams
Thursday night matchups are always unpredictable, but generally favor the home teams, and generally play very close. Both of these teams have had their share of rough time in recent past, and the Browns may not have a better opportunity to get into the win column than Thursday night at home against a rookie quarterback.
The Browns offense has been average at best thus far, and I see them struggling again here against an underrated Jets secondary. Tyrod Taylor has also been sacked 9 times, making less than stellar pass rushes look great. Edge rusher Henry Anderson appears to be having a bit of a career revival in New York, and he and Leonard Williams can be a solid 1-2 punch and should find some success Thursday night.
Sam Darnold faces his toughest task of the young season against a stout Browns D. Myles Garrett was a nonfactor against the Saints, and you can expect him to turn it up big time for a prime time game against a rookie QB. The Jets have a solid receiving corp, and it should be an interesting matchup against a Browns secondary that is a bit feast or famine.
I’m expecting a bit of a defensive struggle on Thursday, and while I feel that the O/U is set about perfect, I’m jumping on the Jets side to cover the 3 points. Cleveland may walk away with a huge win here, but Thursday night games are great opportunities for backdoor covers. The Browns win, but Jets cover, looking at a score around 23-21.
Final Pick: Jets (+3)