Don’t sleep on the Browns.
That was the message from the Jets this week, despite a 4-8 record for their opponent and the fact that Cleveland has lost their last five games. The Browns aren’t a bad team. They are ranked No. 8 in total defense and are in the middle of the pack in offense. They are ninth in passing offense.
They are a better team than their record indicates.
Five of their losses this year have been by eight points or less, with three of those games against teams currently in place to make the playoffs.
“They’ve been in a lot of games this year. Their record really doesn’t speak for how well these guys play, offensively and defensively, so we definitely have to be prepared and execute our plays,” wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. “[That is] really big this week.”
Out of the playoffs for a third straight year, there is still plenty to play for the Jets. A win would push this team to 7-8 and perhaps give some job security to head coach Rex Ryan.
Three things to watch for …
1. The Gordon factor
There’s no denying Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon might be the best wide receiver in the game right now. The second-round supplemental pick has a touchdown in five straight weeks, not to mention 74 receptions for 1,467 yards.
“Yeah, he’s really been playing at a high level and really come a long way from going back all the way in the spring,” head coach Rob Chudzinski said. “He missed the first couple games with a suspension and had gone through training camp, really progressed [and] come along as a player.”
He’s topped 100 yards in five of his last seven games. Ryan likened him to Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson when he first came in the league.
2. The weekly Geno spot
Every week, it seems rookie quarterback Geno Smith is a major factor, but not in a good way. Instead, the Jets are asking their second-round pick to not lose them any games by cutting back on turnovers. The good news for Jets fans is that Smith hasn’t had a multiple-interception game since Nov. 24. The bad news is they have just one win in that three-game stretch as his play has been anything but like the future of the franchise.
“I think he’s got a better feel for pressure in the pocket than he’s done,” Ryan said. “And the thing that I know has been greatly improved is the way he’s protected the football in the pocket and that’s something that’s hard to do. But, I’ve definitely seen that.”
Smith has 2,642 passing yards this season, the most for a rookie quarterback in franchise history. But he also has 21 interceptions, second-most in the league.
3. Setting the Pace
Calvin Pace already has nine sacks this season, a career best with two games left in the season. It has been a remarkable 14 games of rejuvenation for a player who was an afterthought this season when the Jets inked him to a free-agent deal. But after a 2012 season where his overall production declined (he had just three sacks), Pace is back in a major way.
Ryan said Pace “is playing as good as ever right now.”
A sack on Sunday would give Pace his first ever double-digit sack total in an NFL season.
“It will mean a lot. I always set personal goals and it’s hard to put a number [on the] amount of sacks. Obviously double digits is good,” Pace said. “Again, if I get it, I’m hoping that I do, I just owe a lot to Rex, [defensive line coach] Karl Dunbar [and] the guys I play with because they have made it easier. They help me out a lot.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.