New York Jets at Cleveland Browns: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 6, 2017 at 9:16 PM
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NEW YORK JETS (2-2) AT CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-4)

GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FirstEnergy Stadium. TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 24th regular-season meeting. Browns lead series, 12-11. The most memorable meeting might have taken place on Sept. 21, 1970, when the Browns defeated the Joe Namath-led Jets in the very first "Monday Night Football" game. The Jets have won the past four meetings. The teams met last season on Oct. 30 and the Browns almost came away with a win, but lost, 31-28. The Browns led 20-7 at halftime but were outscored 24-8 in the second half.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns revamped their offensive line in the offseason, with the idea of developing a power running game with Isaiah Crowell being the centerpiece. After four starts, Crowell has rushed for only 134 yards on 46 carries. At this rate, he'll finish the season with less than 600 yards. It hasn't helped that the Browns have fallen behind in each game -- they have yet to lead at any time in 2017.

If they can get the running game going, it will take a ton of pressure off rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who ranks near the bottom of every statistical category. He could get a big boost and the Browns, who are actually favored in the game, might earn a rare win if key free-agent acquisition WR Kenny Britt can hold onto balls thrown his way. Britt has caught fewer than 35 percent of his 23 targets and has dropped four passes, fifth-worst among receivers.

Who would have guessed that after four games, the Jets and New England Patriots would both be 2-2? Quarterback Josh McCown, who has won two straight starts, was part of the Browns' ineptitude and now looks to keep his former team mired in that muck. In his 13-year career, McCown never has guided a team to three straight wins.

Against the Browns, the Jets might have a huge advantage in the running game. Just hand the ball to Bilal Powell and get out of the way. Stay away from penalties -- the Jets are in the bottom third of the league in the category and avoid turnovers. And don't get fancy in the red zone; play sound, fundamental football.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Browns LT Joe Thomas vs. Jets DE Kony Ealy. The Jets have been using more and more 4-3 looks against run-heavy teams, and that will likely continue this week. That would mean more snaps for Ealy, who batted down four passes last week, a Jets record for a lineman. The 10-time Pro Bowler Thomas is the Browns' best player, and he hasn't missed a snap in his entire career. Expect these two to tangle quite a bit Sunday.

--Jets LT Kelvin Beachum vs. DE Myles Garrett. All signs point to the top pick in this year's draft making his NFL debut for the Browns after missing the first four games with an ankle injury. Garrett can beat Beachum around the corner or bull rush him to get to McCown.

NEW YORK JETS at CLEVELAND BROWNS INJURY REPORT

NEW YORK JETS

--Out: DE Kony Ealy (shoulder), RB Matt Forte (knee, toe), LB Josh Martin (ankle), CB Darryl Roberts (hamstring)

--Questionable: CB Juston Burris (foot), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder)

CLEVELAND BROWNS

--Doubtful: WR Kenny Britt (knee, groin), LB Jamie Collins (concussion)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Browns MLB Joe Schobert. Schobert has proven to be a strong run defender in his first year starting with the Browns, but opposing quarterbacks have learned they can beat him when they get him isolated in pass coverage. McCown knows Schobert's strengths and weaknesses because they were teammates last year.

FAST FACTS: Jets QB Josh McCown started 11 games for Cleveland in 2015-16, totaling 3,032 yards (275.6 per game) with 17 touchdowns. He has compiled a 100-plus rating in two of the past three games. He has completed 70.1 percent (82 of 117) of his passes, the second most in the NFL. ... Jets RB Bilal Powel ran for 163 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, in a win against Jacksonville last week. He is looking for a third straight game with a rushing touchdown. ... Jets rookie RB Elijah McGuire rushed for a career-high 93 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, against the Jaguars. Powell and McGuire are the fifth pair of teammates with rushing touchdowns of 69-plus in the same game and the first since 2008. ... Jets RB Matt Forte has 350 scrimmage yards (116.7 per game) and four rushing touchdowns in three games against Cleveland. He has 13,946 scrimmage yards, third most among active players. ... LB Demario Davis had 99 tackles and two sacks with the Browns in 2016. He leads the Jets and ranks third in the NFL with 40 tackles. ... Jets CB Buster Skrine, another former Cleveland player, is one of four cornerbacks with seven-plus interceptions and three-plus sacks since 2013. ... Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer has seven passes of 25-plus yards, tied for fifth most in the AFC. He also has two rushing touchdowns, tied for second most among NFL QBs. ... Browns RB Duke Johnson has seen his role expand and has 244 yards from scrimmage (81.3 per game) and two rushing scores in the past three games. His 20 catches are tied for the fifth most among running backs. ... Browns WR Kenny Britt had seven catches for 109 yards in his last game against the Jets (11/13/16 as a member of the Rams). ... Browns LB Joe Schobert had career-high 11 tackles last week against the Bengals. He has recorded eight-plus tackles in three of the past four games.

PREDICTION: The Jets are a surprising 2-2 while the Browns are an unsurprising 0-4. This might be the Browns' best chance to avoid going 0-16. They will get a huge lift with Myles Garrett in the lineup.

OUR PICK: Browns, 24-20.

--Dennis Rudner

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