The Jets and Browns meet tonight in Cleveland with vastly different reasons for wanting to beat each other into primetime submission. And the fourth different starting quarterback for both teams will have a lot to say about which team comes away victorious.
For the Jets, the playoffs are a dream for next year, but they want to build on home wins over Houston and Washington, toward a potential 8-9 record to take with them into the offseason. And the well-traveled Trevor Siemian, who piloted the 30-point offense that led by a lot early and by just enough late to defeat the Commanders, will make his second start for Zach Wilson, still in the NFL's concussion protocol.
Cleveland's QB is well known not just to the Jets, their coaches and fans but around the NFL. Joe Flacco was signed to the Browns' practice squad in November, became their fourth starter earlier this month, and has posted 300-yard passing games in his last three games, all wins as the denizens of the Dawg Pound have risen to 10-5 and can officially end the suspense and clinch an AFC playoff berth with a win tonight.
But Flacco and the Brownies will have to do it without their top WR, Amari Cooper, who was on the injury report all week with a heel injury and has been deactivated for the game.
It was 15 months ago that Flacco was the Jets backup and occasional starter. His only win for the Green & White from 2020-22 came in this same stadium that sits almost on the shores of Lake Erie. He guided the Jets from 30-17 down to the 31-30 comeback win, all in the final 1:22, with touchdown passes to Corey Davis and then-rookie Garrett Wilson, sandwiched around Braden Mann's perfectly executed onsides kick recovered by Justin Hardee.
Wilson continues to make much noise as the Jets' WR-1. He's already notched 80 catches for the second straight season and needs just 42 more yards — all tonight would be fine for starters — to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the second straight season. He is joined in explosive playmaking on the offense by RB Breece Hall, who amassed 95 rushing yards, 96 receiving yards on 12 catches, two rushing TDs and 11 first downs in helping the Jets conquer the Commanders.
See photos the Jets arriving in Cleveland for Thursday Night Football against the Browns.
As exciting as both offenses were in last year's Cleveland matchup, both teams were also in the early stages of building top-three NFL defenses. The two units will alternate series on the stadium's Kentucky bluegrass, trying to force the opposing offenses into mistakes, turnovers, or at the very least 3-and-out series — the Browns are No. 1 and the Jets No. 2 in the league at forcing opponents into 1-2-3-punt routines.
Both teams have had their share of injuries through the season's first 16 weeks, but the Browns have taken some tough hits lately. Besides Cooper, starting LB Anthony Walker and key DL contributor Ogbo Okoronkwo will both miss their third consecutive games with injuries vs. the Jets. And against the Texans, K Dustin Hopkins and P Corey Bojorquez suffered left leg injuries. Both are inactive, with K Riley Patterosn and P Matt Haack having been elevated from Cleveland's practice squad.
The Jets had their own injury question with Sunday kicking hero Grerg Zuerlein, who was limited in practice this week and was listed as questionable for the game with a quad injury. But Zuerlein is ready to handle the Jets' kicking in their final primetime appearance this season.
The Jets' full seven-player inactive list:
- QB Zach Wilson
- QB Aaron Rodgers
- WR Allen Lazard
- CB Bryce Hall
- DL Carl Lawson
- OL Austin Deculus
- TE Jeremy Ruckert
And these are the Browns' seven inactives
- WR Amari Cooper
- Anthony Walker
- K Dustin Hopkins
- P Corey Bojorquez
- DE Ogbo Okoronkwo
- C Luke Wypler
- DE Sam Kamara