Tomorrow the Browns welcome the New York Jets to Cleveland Stadium. It will be a crucial hump game for the 3-5 Browns, who are trying to claw their way back into contention. If the Browns win, they will be 4-5 and will have completed a three-game winning streak against three of the best teams in the NFL. If the Browns lose, they will fall to 3-6 and have a very tough time working their way back to respectability.
The Jets clearly are one of the best teams in the AFC. They are 6-2 and tied with New England for the top spot in the AFC East. Offensively, the Jets have lots of weapons. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene are their two excellent featured backs, and their efforts have put the Jets fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Mark Sanchez is their celebrity quarterback, and he throws to Braylon Edwards — the cocky ex-Brown — and Dustin Keller. This is a solid offense that will pose a huge challenge for Rob Ryan and the Browns’ quirky defense. The Jets’ running game will test the Browns’ defensive line and linebackers, who have played extremely well in recent weeks, and Sanchez and Edwards will target the Browns’ secondary — and probably specifically Eric Wright, who has struggled at times this season. This is another game where the ball-hawking Browns will be hoping to force turnovers to stub out Jets’ drives.
The Jets’ defense also is good. It has been especially stout against the run, and this is where tomorrow’s game should get interesting. The Browns have been very successful running the ball of late; last week Peyton Hillis ran through, over, and around New England for more than 180 yards. With rookie Colt McCoy probably starting at quarterback, the Browns will want to establish a running game to take the pressure off McCoy. If the Browns can’t move the ball on the ground and the offense has to move the ball exclusively through the air, it likely will be a long game for Cleveland. I would expect the Browns to continue to pound at the Jets, even if they aren’t having much initial success, unless and until the score requires them to focus on the passing attack. I also expect that the inventive play-calling that has been so successful in the past two games will be seen in tomorrow’s game, too.
The Browns’ excellent play in the last two weeks has Cleveland fans everywhere getting their hopes up. This will be the biggest home game for the Browns in years. I expect Cleveland Stadium and the Browns fans to be loud and proud tomorrow, at their boisterous and bellicose best, hoping that their cheering and rooting and jeering of the Jets can bring their team to victory in a vital game.