Winning is addictive. After the Jets finally grabbed a "W" after 13 consecutive defeats, they want to get another one Sunday at MetLife Stadium when they host the Browns (10-4).
"The whole vibe was different," said rookie LT Mekhi Becton following the Green & White's 23-20 upset over the Rams. "Everybody was happy. We want to get that feeling again."
A 17-point underdog against the Rams, the Jets are a 9.5-point underdog against the Browns. While the Brownies have their strongest outfit in recent memory, the Jets are dealing with critical injuries on defense. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who finished his season with a team-leading 7 sacks and 14 QB hits and was stout against the run, landed on injured reserve this week with head/neck injuries. Harvey Langi, who started the past six games at inside linebacker alongside Neville Hewitt and is fourth on the club with 57 tackles, also headed to IR with a neck ailment; and nickel corner Javelin Guidry, a speedy rookie who's tallied three forced fumbles, is dealing with a knee injury.
"We're talking about three guys that were starters that are looking that they might not be able to play this week -- two of them for sure, one of them we're not sure," Jets Head Coach Adam Gase said. "We've just got to kind of figure out who's going to be available for us this week in practice. We've got to have a good week of practice and stay focused on what we're trying to do, and we've got to play well. We've got to do a good job stopping the run, because these guys do it as well as anybody."
Minus Williams, the Jets will have run-plugger Folorunso Fatukasi back in the defensive line rotation after a week absence due to contact tracing. The Green & White need all hands on deck to compete with an excellent Browns offensive line led by one of the NFL's top assistants in Bill Callahan. With Nick Chubb, who is averaging 5.6 yards a clip and has 10 rush scores and is just 69 yards shy of his second consecutive 1,000-yard season, and Kareem Hunt (793 yards and 4.3 yds/att) toting the rock, the Browns have the NFL's third-ranked rush offense (152.6 yds/g) and are ranked No. 6 in rush yards/play (4.79).
"We have to do a good job of gang tackling, we can't allow run after contact," Gase said. "This has to be a good defensive team effort."
The formidable Browns rush attack has taken a lot of pressure off Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. A strong ground game has led to the Browns converting 45% on third down, which is No. 7 in the NFL, and they rank No. 8 in pass yards per play (7.41). Over his last four games, Mayfield has completed 70% of his passes with 10 TDs and 1 INT. The third-year pro is thankful for the tone-setters along that line.
"I love those boys up front," Mayfield said. "It's unbelievable. We have a great group that is extremely focused."
The Jets offensive front is coming off one of its finest efforts of the season against the Rams. They'll stay in the fire because a week after seeing Aaron Donald & Co., the task will be a front that includes Myles Garrett (11 sacks), Olivier Vernon (7 sacks) and former Jets DT Sheldon Richardson (4.5 sacks). Always up for a challenge, the 6-7, 363-pound Becton wants to face the best.
"He's a real good player, really explosive," Becton said of Garrett. "He has different tools in his toolbox, he does different things, so there's a lot of things I've got to key in on, hone in on, try to find a slight bit of weakness to give myself the advantage."
Gase added of Garrett: "You have to get your hands on him and you have to play long. You have to play longer than he plays because Myles Garrett is going to bring it and he's going to bring it for four quarters. He's going to find a way to get involved in this game, he's a tough guy to completely take out of it no matter what you do, whether you're double-teaming him, chipping him, putting three guys on him. He's going to find a way to get involved. We just have to make sure we do a good job of getting the ball out and we have to put ourselves in position where he can't wreck the game."
Sam Darnold, taken two picks after Mayfield in 2018, is coming off his best effort of the season, in LA. Connecting on 71% of his throws with 1 TD, Darnold was in command throughout and saw the field well with decisive reads and quick decisions. He'll need to be good again in order for the Jets to spring a second consecutive upset.
"Quarterbacks and coaches in this league are always judged on wins and losses, that's it, and Baker's winning this year and we haven't won as much this year as we would like to obviously," Darnold said. "We're going to continue to be judged on that and as we should be, we have a lot to do with how our team does in the game. Baker has been doing a really good job this year, and I think for me there's obviously some things I have t to continue to work on. He's been doing a great job and they've been winning games."
The Browns can end the NFL's longest playoff drought with a win and earn a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2002. The Jets, guaranteed a top-two pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, have played one-possession games in four of their last six and they want to keep the good vibes going.
"We have to make sure we do a good job of not turning the ball over on offense and converting on third downs," Gase said. "We'll have some opportunities, we have to find a way to run the ball well. Special teams, we have to make sure we protect the football and at the same time we have to find a way to steal a possession whether it's through our return units or blocking a punt, whatever we have to do to steal the possession."