Sunday, December 22, 2013

Four Point Stance: Browns at Jets


The New York Jets and Cleveland Browns are now jockeying for higher draft positions. They're also jockeying for jobs.

Officially out of playoff contention, both teams are looking to earn respect from their bosses when they square off at the Meadowlands Sunday. Cleveland (4-10) has lost its last five games, while New York (6-8) has mustered just a single win in as many weeks.

Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith and fifth-year coach Rex Ryan have two dress rehearsals to sway the higher-ups one way or the other. Both have earned staunch support from the locker room through thick and thin, but how that translates to the front office is yet to be determined.

When the Jets have the ball:
The Browns' defense, unlike their foe, ranks among the best in the league at preventing the big passing play. Cleveland, however, has given up the seventh-most passing touchdowns in the NFL. A heavy dose of Chris Ivory should certainly be in order, but Gang Green should be in attack mode through the air when and if they find themselves in the red zone. Now that New York is officially out of the playoff race, it should be giving rookie quarterback Geno Smith a full-on test over the next two weeks.

When the Browns have the ball:
The Jets are among the worst in the league at preventing the big play, so Josh Gordon has to be licking his chops. Only two teams have given more pass completions of 40 yards or more than the Jets. Gordon, arguably the hottest reciever in the NFL in terms of the deep ball, will square off with the struggling Antonio Cromartie on a regular basis and may also see some action against the maligned rookie Dee Milliner. Gordon is averaging 19.5 yards a reception and has amassed nine touchdowns — with a long of 95 yards — in 12 contests.

Gordon. Like so many other big-play wideouts against the Jets, Gordon can be a difference-maker. If New York gives up even a single bomb touchdown, it could decide a win or a loss, considering the Jets' lack of explosiveness on the other side of the ball. Cromartie and Milliner are also in full evaluation mode, so Gordon's performance could sort of serve as an X-Factor in their respective futures, as well.

The Browns lead the head-to-head series by a 13-8 margin. The Jets, however, won the teams' last meeting — a 26-20 decision — that saw Mark Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes on a game-sealing touchdown in overtime.

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