3 Things for the Browns to win
1. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson have to combine for 150+ rushing yards on the ground. Easier said than done against the Jets’ defense but I can’t envision a scenario where the Browns are successful relying on the right arm of Josh McCown. The Browns’ strength offensively is their offensive line and that’s a good place to start. If he Browns can run the football effectively, possess the football, and out physical the Jets they have a chance.
2. Keep the down and distance favorable on offense. Let’s face it, the Browns lack the weapons on the outside to consistently stretch the field or gain chunk yardage through the air. Not to mention Jets’ Head coach Todd Bowles is going to pepper McCown with blitzes regardless of the down or distance so five and seven step drops are out of the question. Keep it 2nd & 5, 3rd & 3 and you can mitigate your lack of explosiveness in the passing game.
3. Force Ryan Fitzpatrick to beat you. In other words the Browns’ 32nd ranked rush defense from a season ago had better improve. Chris Ivory is a woefully underrated ball-carrier. There isn’t much flash there but he’s effective and runs hard. The Browns must slow Ivory down and force turnover prone Ryan Fitzpatrick to beat them on 3rd & long.
3 Things for the Jets to win
1. Ride Chris Ivory. As previously mentioned the Browns’ rush defense was awful last season. That “32” means worst in the NFL. Ivory has never exceeded 200 carries in a single season. If it were me at the controls that number would exceed 300 in 2015. I honestly believe he’s their best offensive player and yes, that’s including Brandon Marshall and with no running back to challenge for touches (Stevan Ridley injured) I’m thinking an Ivory workload of 25-30 carries should suffice in this matchup.
2. Sound tackling. The Jets are going to blitz. That’s what Todd Bowles does. They have the secondary to play man-to-man across the board and that blitz will force the ball out of McCown’s hands quickly. The Browns want to get Duke Johnson involved in the passing game early and often. Johnson versus the Jets’ linebackers in space, advantage Browns. When, NOT if the Browns dump down to Johnson, Crowell or the tight ends short the Jets must be sure tacklers and eliminate yards after the catch.
3. Protect the football. I’m looking at you Fitzpatrick. The Browns simply lack offensive fire power. They are going to struggle to score consistently this season. But if you give any professional football team extra possessions or a short field they will capitalize eventually. A turnover here, a score there, and Cleveland is playing with confidence and they all of sudden forget that they should lose this game in a fairly convincing manner.
What to watch for…
Turnover margin. Neither offense is anything to write home about. The Jets are a substantially more talented football team but their roster/coaching staff/system has undergone quite a bit of change. It may take some time to gel , particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The team that runs the football best and can limit that amount of pass attempts required to move the football will likely hold the edge in the turnover margin. If you’re ‘plus’ in the turnover margin your chances for victory go up exponentially.
The Front Office Says…
The New York Jets win.