The pressure is on the Jets and rookie QB Sam Darnold. The home debut against Miami on Sunday didn't go as planned. But now they're back in their element — primetime on the road, the crucible in which they produced their rousing opening-night success in Detroit.
This time it's Thursday Night Football in Cleveland's First Energy Stadium.
But if the Green & White are feeling some pressure to get back to a winning record in the Darnold era, that's nothing compared to the Hue Jackson Browns. The Cleveland head coach remains on the hotseat as his team since 2016 is:
■ 0-1-1 this year and 1-32-1 overall.
■ Winless at 0-18-1 for parts of three seasons, or for 633 days from the day after the last win, on Christmas Eve 2016, to today.
■ 1-15-1 at the Dawg Pound.
■ 1-8-1 in games decided by three points or fewer, with two of those losses coming to the Jets in '16 and '17.
Nevertheless, the Browns are better and dangerous — and are favored in this game.
"We know they have a good team," Jets HC Todd Bowles says. "It's the NFL. We don't look at anybody's record. We're expecting a tough game and I know we're going to get one."
Here are seven more points of interest for Thursday's Jets-Browns showdown (8:20 p.m. ET kickoff).
1. The Rivalry Turns
This isn't a best-of-27 playoff matchup, but the Jets for the first time can even their all-time series with Cleveland, including the 1986 playoff game, at 13-13. They've been playing catchup ever since the Browns took the first six games of the rivalry from 1970-80. The Green & White have prevailed in the last five since 2010 (although all were one-score games) and the last three on the road, suggesting they're fairly comfortable playing in front of the Dawg Pound. They even prevailed last year, 17-14, despite being outgained by 207 yards — the fourth-largest yardage deficit in a win in franchise history. Not a recommended formula for victory, but a W's a W.
Best Images of the Series Through the Years
2. The Unfolding Darnold Tale
Darnold acknowledged his interceptions vs. Miami were costly: One led to the Dolphins' first TD, the other blew a great red zone opportunity. But he added, "Other than the two picks, I thought I played pretty well." And why not? His 334 passing yards not only set the Jets' rookie record but also made him the youngest QB to throw for 300 yards in an NFL game. Questions arose this week over if he wants to show the Browns what they could've had with the first pick of April's draft. But Cleveland's choice, Baker Mayfield, is still sitting while Darnold, No. 3 overall, is starting. "No," said Sam, "I'm just going to go out there and play ball."
3. Tyrod's Offense
Mayfield hasn't played because Hue Jackson has gone with vet Tyrod Taylor, who threw his own costly INTs late in the first two games. But the Jets are well aware Taylor still poses problems — as the Bills QB, he beat them in three of his five starts with a 98.7 rating. And since 2000, "T-Mobile" is one of the league's top six rushing QBs at 5.7 yards/carry. Taylor lost erratic WR Josh Gordon in this week's trade to New England but still has Jarvis Landry, who had 49 catches and 3 TDs in eight games vs. the Jets with Miami and now leads the Browns with 12 catches for 175 yards. And speedy rookie Antonio Callaway is being prepped to step into the Gordon void.
4. Under the Gun
Darnold and the Jets' O-line will be put to the test by a growing threat in the Browns defense. They're coordinated by Gregg Williams, the 27-year pro coach who came to Cleveland last year and immediately improved many of the Browns' rankings from near-last in 2016 to middle of the pack or better. The run defense, for instance, jumped to seventh in yards/game and to second in allowing 3.35 yards/carry (although those rankings are 20th and 13th to start this season). And Darnold, who was sacked three times by the Dolphins but escaped the clutches of Cameron Wake, must now elude DE Myles Garrett, last year's top pick who has nine sacks in 13 career games.
5. Return to Cleveland
RB Isaiah Crowell played in all 64 games in his four seasons with Cleveland, averaging 208 offensive touches and 972 yards from scrimmage each season, before coming to the Jets. And WR Terrelle Pryor in 2016 with the Browns had 77 catches for 1,007 yards, his best numbers as a pro. After last year's injury-marred season with Washington, Pryor says, "I'm getting back into it and I'm starting to play and run violently. I think I'm getting back to that and being better than I've ever been." Pryor is averaging 19.0 yards/catch on seven receptions. If he can maintain that for the year, it would be the best mark by a Jets receiver since Wesley Walker's 20.7 in 1986.
6. Battle Turnover
This game marks a reversal of form for both teams in a key category. The Browns, minus-40 the previous two seasons combined in turnover margin, are plus-6 this season, No. 1 in the NFL. And the Jets, minus-24 in 2016-17, are plus-2, tied for fourth. In terms of turnover drive rate, the Jets D lead the league at 26.9% with the Browns second at 25.8%. Jets LBs, led by Darron Lee, have four of the seven takeaways, while New Jack City has the other three. Based on recent history, there's a chance for the Jets to improve their TO margin on TNF, since in those last five wins over the Browns they're plus-11.
7. Browns' Kicking-Go-Round
The Jets resolved their potential placekicking problem well with the late summer pickup of Jason Myers. Cleveland, meanwhile, has just entered kicking limbo. Zane Gonzalez had a game-winning FG try blocked in the opening tie vs. Pittsburgh, then missed four kicks (two FGs, two XPs) in the 21-18 loss at New Orleans. He's gone and the Browns have signed Greg Joseph, the former 69.5% FG kicker for Florida Atlantic who hit all his kicks as an undrafted free agent with Miami this preseason but still was waived and was on the beach Sunday. The Browns' punt coverage has also scuffled, meaning some lanes could open for Jets PR Andre Roberts.