3TFO: Browns @ Jets, Week 16
Both teams fell out of the playoff chase with losses last week but have tons of pride to play for. Gonzalo Estrade examines a trio of matchups for you here.
3TFO: Browns @ Jets, Week 16
After their small playoff chances were shattered by Justin Tucker and his six field goals in the last Monday Night – losing to the Panthers on Sunday played his part too; the New York Jets enter the last two weeks of the season with the focus on the oncoming months. Finishing with a couple of wins could help John Idzik and the front office make their decisions but more important than victories is that some of their young players; of course their quarterback Geno Smith included, would show some kind of development to end the season with a high note.
The scenario for the Cleveland Browns is similar although their focus could be more on the next NFL Draft as they own a ton of picks in the first rounds. Josh Gordon playing to be the leader in receiving yards will probably draw all the attention but no one should forget about T.J. Ward who is the top graded safety in the league vs. the run and has earned his share of attention too. Now let’s take a look at three matchups that could be key factors in who comes up with the win this Sunday.
Josh Gordon vs. Jets Cornerbacks
This looks like a terrible matchup for the Jets on paper: one of the most dangerous receivers of the NFL will face one of the defenses that have had more troubles to cover in the back end during the season. Josh Gordon averaged 7.8 catches and 168.2 yards per game in the last five weeks scoring six touchdowns in that span – his receiving grade was +10.5 which would be the 15th-highest in the season rankings. Taking a look at his numbers in deep passing in the last month he’s been targeted 17 times for seven catches, 268 yards and three touchdowns. Gordon isn’t just a deep threat, as Sam Monson showed in his Analysis Notebook from his game vs. New England in which he did all his damage in short and intermediate routes.
What do the Jets have to cover Gordon? The 2012 Antonio Cromartie would’ve been a great challenge for the Browns receiver but unfortunately Cromartie is not playing even close to that level this year. With the third-lowest coverage grade and surrendering 1.55 Yards Per Cover Snap he doesn’t look like the same player at all. On the other side there is rookie Dee Milliner has shown slight improvement in the last two games allowing just 29 yards in seven targets. He also managed to avoid any missed tackles in the last game after missing seven in the previous five. Cromartie and Milliner are in completely different stages of their careers but being successful against a player like Josh Gordon could play a meaningful role not only in the outcome of this game but also in their future in the next offseason.
Browns Pass Rushers vs. Jets Offensive Tackles
The Browns rotate three players at outside linebacker; Jabaal Sheard at +6.7 has the highest pass rushing grade of them and comes a good game with one sack, one hit and three hurries after a stretch of negative games. Sheard and Paul Kruger are above-average in Pass Rushing Productivity among 3-4 OLBs at 10.2 and 9.6. Kruger comes from two consecutive ‘green-graded’ games with a total score of +4.4 and 10 pressures in 57 pass rushing snaps. The last one is the rookie Barkevious Mingo who plays around 50% of the snaps and right now is making a bit more of an impact stopping the run compared to rushing the passer.
Both Jets offensive tackles have a positive pass blocking grade after 15 games but their seasons haven’t been quite easy. D’Brickashaw Ferguson has already allowed more pressures; 41; than in any season we have rated. Usually one of the top guys in our Pass Blocking Efficiency he is now ranked 52nd out of 76 at 93.3. At right tackle, Austin Howard was the most consistent player in the offensive line at the beginning of the season that all changed after Week 10 and he hasn’t been able to earned a positive grade since then. In his past five games he has allowed 15 pressures while he had allowed 18 in the previous ten.
Jets Run Defense vs. Browns Rushing Offense
They fell a little short in the last two weeks allowing 281 total yards on the ground but it’s still true in saying ‘you can’t run against the Jets’ – as a team they rank as the best graded defense vs. the run at +113.3 while the next team, Kansas City Chiefs, comes at +69.5. Starting from the nose tackle position where not only Damon Harrison leads all defensive tackle in run defense grade but his fellow Kenrick Ellis is seventh at +13.6 in only 183 snaps. They rank second and third in Run Stop Percentage among defensive tackles. Sheldon Richardson is also among the best 3-4 defensive ends in stopping the run with the second-highest grade and the third-most stops.
For the Browns establishing the running game has been an issue all season long. This week Willis McGahee will be back after missing the last game but they’ll probably continue rotating the backfield. Chris Ogbonnaya comes from his best game of the season grading out at +2.5 with positive grades in all areas. Last week vs. Chicago, Edwin Baker played his first NFL game and provided some burst and elusiveness that could help him get more carries this Sunday. Will the Browns try to test the Jets front-seven after their two last games or simply ignore the run and focus on targeting Gordon?
Follow Gonzalo on Twitter: @PFF_Gonzalo