JETS-BROWNS: 10 Things to Look For

Posted Dec 19, 2013

On Sunday at MetLife Stadium, it won't look much like a Christmas wonderland for next week, nor like a Super Bowl landscape for early February. Temperatures for the Jets-Browns game are expected to be in the low 60s and rain, not the snow of the previous two weeks, is in the forecast during the game.

Our side won't be in a postseason kind of mood either, since the Green & White playoff  hopes got kicked in the teeth by the last placekick of Week 15 from the Ravens' Justin Tucker.

Yet there's more to play for, and not just the proverbial pride. Eight-and-eight would be a decent platform from which to attack 2014 and that will require the first two-game winning streak of the season, so there's no better place to start building the next floor of the current foundation than against Cleveland, which has lost eight of its last nine and its last four on the road.

And there are the green-clad fanatics who'll be showing up for this "Thank You Fans" game. Free Jets winter buff neck warmers will be presented to fans entering the gates, but there's no better way for the Jets to send them off with a hearty "We appreciate'cha" than by wrapping up home win No. 6 — the last times the Jets were 6-2 at home was in 2011 and before that in '04.

"Obviously we want to win it," said QB Geno Smith, "and leave our fans with something to smile about going into the offseason."

Here are 10 things to look for at Sunday's Jets-Browns game:

1. Geno Growth Spurt — "I'm still learning," said Smith, and if he can make some noticeable strides these last two games, it will put him in great position heading into the offseason as the incumbent starter. But there's a lot to work on. Cut down on the 3-and-outs, extend drives, and give his defense some rest. Pick up more of those blitzing blindside DBs. Continue to work on his fast getaways on foot. And especially ...

2. Take Away the Picks — Smith called the Captain Munnerlyn 41-yard interception return at Carolina "something I can gain knowledge from." Yes, and quickly. Geno's 21 INTs are next-to-last among NFL quarterbacks, ahead of only stadium mate Eli Manning's 25. Smith's five INT-return TDs thrown also top QBs. And Cleveland knows pick-sixes. Safety T.J. Ward had one in Week 5 , CB Joe Haden in Week 11, and S Tashaun Gipson another last week vs. Chicago (with Ward adding a fumble-return score vs. the Bears). In this case, six is not good.

Regular-Season Series Record Browns 12-8
     Last Game Jets 26-20 OT, 2010
     Last Browns Win Browns 24-18, 2007
     Current Streak Browns 2 of 3
Regular-Season Record @ NYJ Browns 4-2
     Last Game Browns 24-18, 2007
     Last Jets Win Jets 24-21, 1990
     Current Streak Browns 2 in a row
Postseason Record Browns 1-0
     Only Game Browns 23-20 OT, 1986

3. "Flash" Gordon and Beyond — Josh Gordon leads all NFL receivers in yardage, despite missing two games, and a completion to him is worth pretty much 20 yards a pop. Antonio Cromartie, concussion behind him but hip still achy, is likely to try to keep No. 12 under wraps. But besides Gordon, who else does QB Jason Campbell turn to? TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) has sat out both practices this week. After those two, it's RB Chris Ogbonnaya and WR Davone Bess, both of whom are averaging less than 3½ catches a game at less than 9.0 yards a catch.

4. Neverending Stone Wall — The Browns will pass — their 600 attempts lead the league — but to keep them one-dimensional, our run defense will want to sit on the Cleveland ground game "led" by Willis McGahee's 2.7 yards per attempt. Here's one more measure of how good our front seven has been: On third-and-1 and -2 and fourth-and-1 and -2, we've allowed only a 47.9% conversion rate, including two key stops of Cam Newton last week. That's the first time since 1970 that we've stopped opponents' short-yardage plays more than 50% of the time.

5. Kellen's Revenge — It's been a rough year at times for TE Kellen Winslow, who's still battling an aching knee in averaging about 28 plays a game and totaling 27 catches for 319 yards and two TDs, one of the slowest seasons of his outstanding decade-long NFL career. But his finest seasons came from 2004-08 with Cleveland and now he gets to play his first pro team once more. "Kellen is still a heck of a player, now," coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said this afternoon. "And I'm sure he'll be jacked up for this one."

6. Folk's Home Homefield advantage, thy name is Nick Folk. The kicker has been nearly perfect this season at 30-for-31 on his field goals (and he's never missed an extra point in his career). But at home, he has in fact been perfect: 18-for-18 on FGs, including those last-minute gamewinners over Tampa Bay and New England. Add a kick from last year's San Diego game and Folk has hit his last 19 home FG tries, tying the franchise-long streak set by Pat Leahy in 1985-86 and equaled by Nick Lowery in 1994-96. If Nick hits his first try vs. the Browns, the franchise-long home streak is his alone at 20. Go, Saint Nick!

7. Red Hot — A key situation in this game could be if and when the Browns get inside our 20. They're No. 7 in the NFL in red zone touchdown rate at 58.1% (18-for-31). But the Jets have the No. 5 red zone defense — they've allowed only a 45.5% TD rate and have prevented TDs on 12 of their last 14 series. If Cleveland gets inside the 20, look to see who wins that tug-of-war. If Billy Cundiff, Folk's offseason and preseason competition, is held to FG tries, it's a win for the Green & White.

8. Improve Our Position — No, not draft position — field position. Despite putting a premium on this all year, we've struggled. In returns, Joe McKnight was released early, Clyde Gates and Josh Cribbs went on IR, Darius Reynaud has come in but at Carolina we looked at Kyle Wilson and this week we could see speedy Saalim Hakim. Ryan Quigley and the punt coverage have been up and down. Those are some of the components into this fact: Our starting field position on all drives is our 26.5-yard line, the lowest since 1990, and the difference between our field position and our opponents' is minus-5.1, second-worst since '90.

9. Keep the Faith — The Green & White must not despair on the field and the folks in the stands should stick around for a fantastic finish if the Jets enter the fourth quarter facing a deficit. The Browns have given up fourth-quarter leads in their last three games, all losses. And that's part of a bigger issue: Cleveland has been outscored in the fourth quarter, 128-66, on the year for a minus-62 point margin that is the worst of any second-half quarter in the NFL this season.

10. Vinny and the Jets — If there's anything that will fire up the fans at this game, it'll be seeing Vinny Testaverde at the head of the pack. Vinny T won't be climbing off his Long Island couch one more time to play QB for us, but No. 16 will be on hand to serve as our Runway Pilot for the pregame walk into the stadium and our Honorary Gameday Captain for the opening coin toss. And if there's anything better than seeing Testaverde in the clubs and on the field before the game, it'll be seeing his victory wave three hours later.

Record 6-8 4-10
Points Scored/Game 17.6 20.6
Points Allowed/Game 26.2 25.9
First Downs Gained/Game 16.6 19.1
First Downs Allowed/Game 18.3 20.4
Yards Gained/Game 306.7 346.2
Yards Allowed/Game 341.4 328.9
Time of Possession/Game 29:32 28:43
Turnover Margin –19 –6

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