The 1-13 New York Jets finish the 2020 home slate against the 10-4 Cleveland Browns who are still looking for a division crown.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—One is an accident, but two would actually constitute a winning streak. Before we all get drunk on hilarity or delusion, let’s first ask the question: Do the New York Jets have it in them?
The 1-13 Jets close out their 2020 home slate this Sunday when Baker Mayfield and the 10-4 playoff-bound Cleveland Browns come to town.
Where, When, All-Time
- New York Jets (1-13)
- Cleveland Browns (10-4)
- NFL, Week 16, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
- MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
The Jets’ stunning 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Rams this past Sunday makes everything a little more interesting. Despite many close calls—Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders—the perception that the Jets are by far the worst in the league has remained strong.
Now that they’ve finally broken through, more attention needs to be given. This is especially the case considering the Browns’ current situation.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ three-game losing streak has put the AFC North up for grabs. If Pittsburgh loses to the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday, the Brownies can set up a winner-take-all Week 17 matchup with the Steelers for the division crown by simply beating the Jets.
Cleveland leads the all-time series 15-12. The most famous game between the two teams happened in Cleveland during the 1986 season. Leading two possessions late, the Jets inexplicably blew the lead with just a few minutes to go in regulation, only to lose in the divisional round game in double-overtime.
The Jets will wear all-green in the home finale.
.@McGovenator60 with our Week 16 combo.#CLEvsNYJ | #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/kshr30Jmtx
— New York Jets (@nyjets) December 24, 2020
- Money line: Browns -480 | Jets +380
- Spread: Browns -9.5 (-110) | Jets +9.5 (-110)
- Over/Under: 47.5 (O: -110, U: -110)
New York saw itself listed as a 17.5-point underdog in Los Angeles last Sunday. What a difference a single week makes.
Sure, home-field advantage is usually good for three points or so, but Cleveland is favored by just 9.5. It’s still a large number for a road favorite, but it’s an interesting number considering the circumstances.
Avoid this game at all costs. Select the Browns if you’re forced to dive in with two feet. Under double-digits is a tricky one for the Jets this season.
Javelin Guidry is listed as doubtful with a knee injury. This means Frank Bush will be on his fourth-string slot cornerback (Brian Poole, Arthur Maulet, Guidry). The odds-on favorite has to be Corey Ballentine, whose frame fits slot corner more nicely than Lamar Jackson, Blessuan Austin or Bryce Hall.
Wide receiver Jeff Smith (shoulder) will take a questionable status into the game, while the rest of the active roster is relatively healthy. Tight end Ryan Griffin will miss the contest due to his Reserve/COVID-19 designation (transaction made earlier in the week). Rookie La’Mical Perine returned to practice this week—after three weeks on IR—but it’s still too early to know what the Jets are thinking on that front.
Of course, New York will be without its best defensive player (save for an argument for Marcus Maye). Quinnen Williams‘s IR move after the Rams game made that a certainty. Folorunso Fatukasi returns after missing a game thanks to COVID-19-related protocols.
For the Browns, guard Wyatt Teller (ankle) will be out and linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring) is questionable.
Cleveland’s overall availability looked solid until Saturday when COVID-related ills hit home. The Browns’ flight to New Jersey was delayed due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Former New York Giants linebacker B.J. Goodson was that first positive test for the Brownies. Obviously, Goodson won’t be available. After the delayed flight, contract tracing was then followed and more players were identified as high-risk.
Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge, Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Jacob Phillips were also placed on the COVID-19/reserve list. The first four are all receivers, which means Mayfield will be severely shorthanded at the position.
Keys to the Game
Stop the run at all costs
Fatukasi’s return will help, but Big Q’s absence will hurt in more ways than one. Without Q, the conventional pass rush will be limited—something that was incredibly strong in Los Angeles.
The Browns are a well-rounded team, but Kevin Stefanski’s offense revolves around the ground game. Mayfield is much more productive when Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are doing their thing.
Bush will need to stop the run at all costs, especially early in this one. Force Mayfield into third-and-longs and hope the ball bounces the right way. Without many receivers, it’s the game-plan needed to give the team a shot.
Loosen it up
While the Browns defense ranks 12 against the run, they clock in at 22nd against the pass. Adam Gase allowing Sam Darnold to win it or lose it in the first half could be the team’s only chance at a shocker.
Loosen up the defense to the point it becomes a real chess match.
- New York Jets 16, Cleveland Browns 30
Not only did the Browns do the right thing by hiring the right guy in Stefanski, but they rebuilt the offensive line rapidly and efficiently. Drafting Jedrick Wills Jr. and signing Jack Conklin helped accelerate a process that needed to be a priority many years ago.
Usually, when the offensive line is dominant, good things happen. Joe Douglas, a former offensive lineman himself, understands this and is on the job.
On this day, the Jets will make it interesting at certain points, but the Browns will be too much in the end. Expect Chubb to go over 100 with at least one touchdown for fantasy owners looking to win a championship.