8:15 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Browns -6.5, Over/Under: 45
A pair of new-look teams that disappointed mightily in their respective debuts last week look to avoid an 0-2 start, as the New York Jets play host to the Cleveland Browns from MetLife Stadium. After a whirlwind Offseason highlighted by some huge acquisitions, it’s safe to say that no team in the league had more hype behind it coming into the season than the Browns (0-1, T-4th in AFC North). Indeed, after last season surprising 7-8- finish, by far and away their best in a decade, Cleveland was anointed by many to be the most improved team in the league this season, with some predicting them to rise tot he summit of the AFC North and return to the Playoffs for the first time since 2002. After all, they have a budding star at Quarterback in the form of Baker Mayfield (65.8%, 285 YDS, 5.67 NY/A, 1 TD, 3 INT), who came on like gangbusters during the second half of his rookie campaign in 2018; over the final seven games of the previous term, the former No. One Overall Pick completed 68.3% of his Attempts for an average of 279.6 Yards on 8.76 Net Yards per Attempt, with Seventeen Touchdowns and Seven Interceptions. In order to ensure his continued growth, General Manager, John Dorsey, opted to retain the services of interim Head Coach, Freddie Kittchens, largely on his rapport with his young Quarterback, whom took a major step forward once he assumed offensive playcalling duties. Dorsey endeared himself even further to his Signal-Caller by trading for All-Pro Receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. (7 REC, 71 YDS, 10.1 Y/R, 0 TD), shipping 2019 First and Third Round Picks to the New York Giants along with the services of Safety, Jabrill Peppers. Furthermore, the Defense was augmented with the addition of Olivier Vernon (2 TKL, 1 QBH), also acquired from the Giants in a separate deal, improving an already promising Defensive Line. However, no matter how impressive a team appears to be on paper, the games are always decided on the field, which is a reality that this team became very acquainted with in their disappointing Week One loss to the Tennessee Titans, 13-43. It was the worst defeat suffered in a Season Opener since the club’s first once since returning the league back in 1999, and their performance last Sunday warranted such a distinction; trailing 13-15 late in the Third Quarter, the Browns crumbled down the stretch, as the visitors ran off twenty-eight unanswered points to end the game. When it was all said and done, the hosts were nothing short of a disaster, committing a staggering EIGHTEEN Penalties for a loss of 182 Yards, were a dismal 1-of-10 on Third Down, and committed Three Turnovers, the last of which was an Interception returned for a score. Behind a porous Offensive Line, Mayfield was under siege throughout the day, completing 25-of-38 Passes for 258 Yards, a Touchdown and Three Interceptions, and was sacked five times, one of which resulted in a Safety. To put that into perspective folks, he was sacked more times in one game than he was in the final seven outings of the previous season (3). Unfortunately, given the relative health of the Offensive Line, this appears to be the reality for the foreseeable future, with Offensive Tackles, Joel Bitonio (Abdomen) and Kendall Lamm (Knee), limited in Practice throughout the week, while Mayfield himself has been dealing with a bruised right wrist suffered against the Titans. Perhaps this meeting with the Jets will energize he and his teammates, for the 2017 Heisman earned his first victory in his debut against New York last season, completing 17-of-23 Passes for 201 Yards, which coincidentally ended Cleveland’s dreadful 19-Game Losing Streak.
Meanwhile, there’s another team that underwhelmed immensely in their debut after an Offseason littered with change and hype, and that’s the Jets (0-1, T-4th in AFC East), who underwent a full-fledged rebuilding over the Spring and Summer. A new Head Coach, a new General Manager, new stars, new jerseys, everything was new for Gang Green heading into 2019, with a legitimately positive buzz around the franchise for the first time since in a decade. And why wouldn’t it be after the moves that they made? Similar to their opponent tonight, New York sports a promising Sophomore Quarterback of their own, with last year’s No. 3 Overall Pick, Sam Darnold (68.3%, 175 YDS, 3.44 NY/A, 1 TD, 0 INT), looking to take the next step in his development for a club that has long been starved for a long-term answer at the game’s most important position. Overseeing said development is Adam Gase, who was hired on the strength of his history working with Quarterbacks, including both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning in Denver, Jay Cutler in Chicago (and later Miami), and most recently Ryan Tannehill with the Dolphins. Armed with a war chest of Cap Space, the Jets ventured into Free Agency where they landed a slew of veteran talent, including former All-Pro Tailback, Le’Veon Bell (17 CAR, 60 YDS, 3.5 Y/C, 0 TD), Pro-Bowl Linebacker, C.J. Mosely (4 TKL, 1 FR, 1 INT, 1 TD, 2 PD), Slot Receiver extraordinaire, Jamison Crowder (14 REC, 99 YDS, 7.1 Y/R, 0 TD), and road-grading Guard, Kelechi Osemele, among others. Furthermore, the Draft saw them come away with arguably the field’s top prospect, Defensive Tackle, Quinnen Williams (No. 3 Overall), further bolstering their ranks in the trenches. However, as we said earlier, the games are played on the gridiron, not paper, which became painfully evident in New York’s 16-17 defeat to the Buffalo Bills. Despite leading 16-3 heading into the Fourth Quarter, the hosts collapsed in the final stanza where they relinquished back-to-back 8-Play, 85-Yard Drives, culminating in the go-ahead 38-Yard Touchdown from Bills’ Quarterback, Josh Allen. For all their hype surrounding Darnold, Bell, and Gase, the Offense as a whole was downright abysmal last Sunday, punting on seven of their eleven drives, with only one of those series traveling beyond Fifty-Five Yards. In the end, the Jets could muster just 223 Total Yards on Seventeen First Downs, were penalized on eight occasions for a loss of Sixty-Seven yards, and managed to go just 7-of-17 on Third Down, despite forcing Four Turnovers and winning Time of Possession (32:01). Darnold was fairly pedestrian, completing just 28-of-41 Passes for 175 Yards and a Touchdown, taking Four Sacks to boot, while Bell failed to make much of an impact, rushing for Sixty Yards on Seventeen Carries, though did reel in a score courtesy of his Quarterback, while Crowder piled up the catches with fourteen on Seventeen Targets for Ninety-Nine Yards. However, the biggest issue coming out of that affair is the team’s health, for Gase is expecting to be without a number of prominent figures for tonight’s meeting with the Browns. Both the aforementioned Mosely (Groin) and Williams (Ankle) did not practice throughout the week due to various ailments, while Offensive Tackles, Kelvin Beachum (Ankle) and Alex Lewis (Shoulder), are Questionable, along with Bell, who sustained a shoulder injury in the defeat. Furthermore, Quincey Enunwa (1 REC, -4 YDS, -4.0 Y/R, 0 TD), who lost a crucial Fumble in last week’s loss, is headed to Injured Reserve with a neck injury, while his replacement, former Pro-Bowl Receiver, Demaryius Thomas, who was acquired via trade with the New England Patriots last week, hasn’t practiced since arriving in Gotham City due to a sore Hamstring. Now with his fourth franchise in eighteen months, Thomas will be looking to resurrect his career with Gase, who coached him throughout his peak years in Denver. Lastly, Darnold will not only miss tonight’s action but very well may miss the next three to seven weeks suffering from Mononucleosis. Trevor Siemian is expected to get the start in his stead.