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Browns at Jets Preview: With Playoff Chances Gone, Jets Focus On Finishing Strong As Futures Of Rex Ryan, Geno Smith Could Be Decided

  By Brad Carroll  
When Justin Tucker connected on a 61-yard field goal Monday night to send the Ravens to an 18-16 victory over the Lions it was the final dagger in this season for the New York Jets. There will be two more games to be played, but the Baltimore victory made it official - the Jets have no shot to make the playoffs.

So, for the third straight year, the Jets have failed to make the postseason. The Jets can still finish 8-8, which would save a losing season, but the true attention of the organization now turns to the future, including the status of head coach Rex Ryan, the decision regarding whether or not Geno Smith will be the team's starting quarterback going forward, and creating a plan of action to get better at every single position, except defensive line, over the next several months.

The man on the spot is general manager John Idzik, who hasn't distinguished himself so far in calling the personnel shots. In fact, Idzik had a terrible first offseason after getting hired last winter, with the low-lights the signings of quarterback David Garrard and running back Mike Goodson and putting together an offense that is completely void of talent at the skill positions. If he has a second horrible showing coming up, the Jets will miss the playoffs again and he could be looking for another job.

His first and biggest decision, with input from owner Woody Johnson of course, is whether or not Ryan will be the team's head coach. Ryan started his coaching career with back-to-back appearances in the AFC championship, losing both, before going the next three without a playoff appearance. Ryan's defenses have always been playoff-caliber, but the offense has been a disaster. While he wasn't given many opportunities to succeed considering the talent level, the hammer always falls on the head coach for not winning games.

Ryan, however, should be the team's coach next season. The Jets have been an organization known more for upheaval and instability throughout their history, so having a head coach going into his sixth year would be a positive sign. On top of that, Ryan has proven he can be a winning coach. The Jets were twice one win away from playing in the Super Bowl, so there's no reason to believe Ryan can't get to that point again. Give him a capable starting quarterback and who knows how good the Jets could have been then and now.

The next two games, including Sunday at home against the Cleveland Browns, most likely won't decide Ryan's fate with the team. But it will be a whole lot easier for Idzik to make a change if the Jets end up losing their final three games of the season again. The Jets have to beat the Browns to stop that from happening. The Jets play the Dolphins in the regular season finale, which will be a tough game to win considering Miami likely will be playing for its postseason life.

For Smith, there isn't much he can prove over the next two weeks that will allow anyone to believe he would be a clear-cut starter for the Jets next season. He's been terrible this season and even if he lights it up over the next two weeks, it will be tough to forget the bad. But, just like Ryan, he could make the decision to stay or move on difficult with two solid games in a row.

Unfortunately for Jets fans, the regular season has come down again to talking about the offseason instead of a possible spot in the playoffs. There are two more chances to watch the Jets play, which is rare considering NFL fans get to watch their teams just 16 times a year, more if you make the playoffs.

So, we'll be watching Sunday as the Jets try to improve to 6-2 at home and keep their quest for a .500 season alive against the Cleveland Browns. Here's our in-depth look at the matchup of two teams eliminated from the postseason race.

Cleveland Browns (4-10, last place in AFC North)
at New York Jets (6-8, third place in AFC East)

The Spread: Browns +2.5; Jets -2.5

Major Injury Report: JETS: Only "probables" listed on injury report. BROWNS: Out, TE Jordan Cameron, G John Greco, TE Andre Smith. Questionable, WR Davone Bess, CB Joe Haden.

GameDay Staff Picks: Brad: Jets 27, Browns 17. Craig: Jets 24, Browns 17. Matt: Jets 23, Browns 17.

How Jets Can Beat Browns
Cover Josh Gordon
: It's no secret the Jets have been horrible against the pass this season, with a secondary that has trouble covering pedestrian receivers let alone some of the best in the game. The Jets' defensive backs will be tested in a big way Sunday against Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who has become one of the most electrifying players in the NFL. Gordon leads the NFL with 1,467 receiving yards and recently put together one of the best stretches in history. Before getting held to three catches for 67 yards and a touchdown last week against the Bears, Gordon had games where he gained 125, 237, 261 and 151 yards. He had five touchdown grabs during that four-game stretch. By comparison, Jets quarterback Geno Smith passed for 103, 127, 29 and 219 yards over those same four weeks. That's passing yards. The job of stopping Gordon will likely be given to Antonio Cromartie, who has struggled this entire season. If he can't stick with Gordon, the Jets will lose this game. The Jets get a little bit of good news by not having to face Browns tight end Jordan Cameron, making it easier to focus on Gordon. But a lot of teams have tried and failed to shut him down with much better players than the Jets have.

It's Always Geno: Nearly every single game this season we've pointed to the Jets quarterback needing to have a good game in order to win. Not even a great game, but a good game. More often than not, a lot more, Smith has failed on the big stage, however. He's thrown 21 interceptions, with only Eli Manning throwing more. He has just 10 touchdown passes. In the last five games, where everything fell apart for the Jets, Smith has two touchdown passes and eight interceptions. The good news for Smith is he should have the opportunity to make some plays against a suspect Browns secondary, which has allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdown passes against them in nine straight games. Throw in the fact star cornerback Joe Haden is questionable with an injury, and Smith could have his best passing day of the season. Of course, Smith hasn't shown the ability to be a big-time passer at all in his young career. He has started to take more chances, and has used his legs more, a must for him, so things could be headed in the right direction. Smith must play well, and not turn the ball over, against the Browns in what could be his last chance to impress the organization before the offseason begins.

Run The Ball: Smith needs to make plays, but the offense will be carried by running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Without those two backs moving the offense, it could be a long afternoon at MetLife Stadium. For all the bad moves John Idzik has made in his short tenure as general manager, trading for Ivory was one of the good ones. Ivory has rushed for 705 yards this season and could have a lot more if the Jets actually fed him the ball consistently. They haven't, however, failing to take advantage of one of the few strengths on the offensive side of the ball. Powell has been solid too, picking up 567 yards on the ground, but he's been given limited carries as well, totaling just 23 in the past three games. Both could have big games against the Browns, if the Jets decide to ground and pound. The Browns allowed 179 yards on the ground last week against the Bears, with Matt Forte gaining 127 alone. Overall, Cleveland has been solid, allowing an average of 103.8 yards per game on the ground. The Jets ran for 157 yards last week against the Panthers, the top rush defense in the NFL. A solid running game will allow Smith to pick his moments down field and the Jets should be able to win their seventh game of the season.

Three Browns To Stop
WR Josh Gordon (averaging 179 receiving yards per game with five touchdowns over last four weeks); QB Jason Campbell (has thrown for 664 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions last two games); LB D'Qwell Jackson (121 tackles with 1.5 sacks and an interception this season).

AFC East Games
Cleveland at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Miami at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
New England at Baltimore, 4:25 p.m.

1 comment:

  1. Report from FOX today says Rex Ryan told team last night he thinks he's getting fired. As I wrote above, firing Ryan would be a huge mistake. John Idzik should be the one on the hot seat considering what he did with the roster this offseason.