The New York Jets, on short rest after a sloppy loss tot he Miami Dolphins in Week 2, look to keep up in the AFC East on Thursday night when they visit the Cleveland Browns.
In year’s past, this could have been chalked up as an automatic win considering the Browns went 1-31 over the past two years.
However, this a new-look Browns team that could very well be 2-0 had it been for competent kicking. After a shocking tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, a missed extra point and field goal down the stretch in Week 2 resulted in a loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Here are a few things to watch for from both teams tonight:
3 things to watch for the Jets
Sam Darnold’s Development
There have been times this year when rookie quarterback Sam Darnold looks like an established veteran. There are other times when he looks like a rookie. Those are the growing pains that come with starting a 21-year-old passer slated to be the future of the franchise.
Through two games, Darnold has completed over 66-percent of his passes for 532 yards with three touchdowns. However, three early interceptions are a concerning number as turnovers were the USC product’s lone red flag during the pre-draft process.
Early returns on the Jets defense so far this year have been extremely promising. Through two games, they have already forced seven turnovers, five of them coming in Week 1 against the Lions.
The pass rush came alive last week as the Jets sacked Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill four times while forcing a pair of fumbles. They should feast against a Browns offensive line that has already yielded 10 sacks this year despite the elusive Tyrod Taylor under center.
Isaiah Crowell as an every-down back
The Jets have recently prided themselves on a strong backfield that usually features a two-back distribution system. However, Isaiah Crowell is running away with the starting job early on.
Sharing carries with veteran Bilal Powell, the 25-year-old Crowell has put up much better numbers through the first two games of the season.
On 22 carries, the former Brown has accrued 137 yards, good for 6.9 yards per. Powell, on the other hand, has 66 yards on 17 rushes (3.9 yards per attempt).
3 things to watch for the Browns
The Browns see some big names banged up as Thursday Night Football draws near.
Star wide receiver Jarvis Landry was limited at practice this week due to a knee injury. The former Dolphin immediately gave the inept Browns legitimacy over the winter when he was traded for.
The impressive rookie cornerback Denzel Ward is also on the injury list as a hamstring injury has gotten in the way of a flying start to an NFL career that has already featured 12 total tackles and two interceptions.
Cleveland’s Pass Rush
While the Jets pass rush has looked dangerous, so has the Browns’, which is only going to provide Darnold with more challenges.
Second-year defensive end Myles Garrett has already racked up two sacks in his first two games after picking up seven in his first 11 last year. Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who had just one sack during his rookie season last year, has already picked up three in 2018.
This is a fast, athletic group that can get after the quarterback. So Darnold is going to have to stay on red alert all night in Cleveland.
Baker Mayfield is Looming
Tyrod Taylor was acquired from the Buffalo Bills this offseason to give the Browns a legitimate No. 1 quarterback. That standing didn’t last long though as Cleveland picked Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield with the top pick of the draft in April.
The veteran Taylor has struggled to gain any sort of consistency under center with the Browns. He’s completed just 52.9-percent of his passes with a pair of interceptions.
If he continues to misfire and the Browns start to struggle, don’t be surprised if head coach Hue Jackson calls on Mayfield to make his NFL debut.
Jets vs. Browns free live stream, TV, viewing information
Date: Thursday, Sept. 20
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL Network Live Stream (TV provider information required)
Live Stream: fuboTV
Jets vs. Browns (-3) Week 3 odds, prediction
For the first time since 2015, the Browns are favored at home. However, the Jets have won and covered in each of the last three meetings over the last three years.
New York is generally solid against the spread as they are 8-3-1 ATS when they are underdogs by three points are more. The only concern I have is what kind of Sam Darnold we’ll see on Thursday night in the face of a good pass rush.
The Jets should have no problem limiting Tyrod Taylor and Co. so I can’t see this becoming a shootout of any kind. For the win, I’ll take the Browns. Against the spread, I’ll take the Jets.