Defense, Joe Flacco give Jets upset hopes against Browns
Cleveland Browns fans should never ever be overconfident, and just because the Jets lost to the Ravens doesn’t mean they are easy to beat.
As Cleveland Browns fans, we should never, never be overconfident, whether they’re playing the New York Jets or scrimmaging a high school team. Just because Cade York saved them from the fire with a 58-yard field goal doesn’t mean he’s going to do it every week.
Last week, much of the Dawg Pound needed a pep talk, fearing that Jacoby Brissett was a total incompetent who had zero chance of defeating big, bad Baker Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers. But, we found out that Brissett was good enough to win. Okay, great. However…
Now there is a different problem. The Jets are coming to town, and they seem awful. They got spanked by the Baltimore Ravens last week and looked punchless while losing. Their coach, Robert Saleh, is regularly roasted by the New York media on the grounds that he seems to be underconfident and indecisive, totally different from the image he had as the tough-guy defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers prior to taking the Jets’ head coaching gig.
Their ace superstar quarterback, Zach Wilson, is out with a knee injury, and when he’s healthy he looks like cannot play. He’s been replaced by Joe Flacco, the man who lost his job to Lamar Jackson. At one point last season, the Jets had been betting underdogs in 26 consecutive games. According to Wynnbet, the Browns are favored by -6.5 points. It looks like the Browns are well on their way to going 2-0, right?
Maybe, maybe not. This is the NFL, the league where anything can happen and usually does. First of all, the Jets are not the first team to look bad against the Ravens. Remember, in 2020, the Browns made the playoffs, but they opened against the Ravens and got slaughtered, 38-6. The Ravens had a down year last year with multiple injuries including former MVP Lamar Jackson, but he is back this season
What do we not like about fill-in quarterback Joe Flacco? An elderly 37 with some serious injuries along the way, he might not be good for 17 NFL games anymore, but he doesn’t have to be. He only needs four or five until Wilson comes back.
Flacco is only in game two. He’ll be fine to manage the game. Last week, Brisset had an unimpressive game and threw for 147 yards. Last week, Flacco had an unimpressive game but threw for 309 yards. This isn’t fantasy football, it’s real life.
Brissett is still adjusting to a new team. Flacco has three seasons with the Jets. If it were Week 10, Brissett would have the edge. But it’s not, and the edge is with Flacco. He has taken a team to the Super Bowl. How awful does anyone believe he is?
However, Flacco may take a few extra hits with left tackle Duane Brown on IR with a shoulder injury and Mekhi Becton also on IR with a serious knee injury. Max Mitchell and George Fant will be the starters and have to block Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
That’s the main reason for doubting the Jets’ chances, but it doesn’t mean that they have zero probability of winning. If they can keep Flacco upright for three seconds, they have people to catch the ball in Garrett Wilson, Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Braxton Berrios. They like multiple wide receiver formations and they like to throw. Pass protection, not so much.
Their chief running threat is a rookie, Michael Carter out of North Carolina. He had 10 rushing attempts for 60 yards last week. That’s not worthy of Nick Chubb, but let’s not laugh at 6.00 yards per carry, either.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Jets have real talent. Start with the cornerback duo of D.J. Reed and 2022 fourth overall pick from Cincinnati, Sauce Gardner. That duo was very effective against the Ravens’ wide receivers in game one, and if you believe Pro Football Focus, they were the top cornerback tandem in the NFL for one week.
Most importantly, there was zero meaningful film of Brissett in a Browns uniform until now. Now the Jets brain trust has seen him and can game plan against him.
Safeties LaMarcus Joyner and Jordan Whitehead had to gear up to stop the run against Baltimore and that will probably hold true in Cleveland also. Linebackers Kwon Alexander and C.J. Moseley also had good games versus the Birds. Moseley led the team in tackles with 11.
Up front, Carl Lawson was lost to injury last season but is back and was able to pressure Jackson last week though he didn’t actually sack him. John Franklin-Myers, the best defensive end from last season with six sacks and 14 quarterback hits, also brought heat from the outside.
On the interior, Quinnen Williams had six sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 12 quarterback hits last season and played an outstanding game versus Baltimore in week one. Sheldon Rankins is a good run-stopping tackle. If that wasn’t enough, they also have Solomon Thomas as part of their interior rotation.
The Browns should win but there’s never an automatic win in the NFL. A -6.5 point favorite in the NFL is only one bad bounce of the football away from a defeat. In mathematical terms, the point spread PS and over/under OU (i.e., the total number of points the oddsmakers believe will be scored in the game) determines the estimated win percentage as follows:
Estimated Points Scored by the Favorite: EFP = 0.5* (OU + PS);
Estimated Points Scored by the Underdog: EUP = 0.5* (OU -PS)
Pythagorean win percentage PWP = EFP^2.37/(EFP^2.37 +EUP^2.37)
So, for the point spread of 6.5, and over/under of 39.5, EFP = 23, EUP = 16.5; and PWP = 68.7 percent. That’s good, but it’s not overwhelming.
However, Week 2 in the NFL is overreaction week. Jets fans are like Browns fans, only more bipolar. After a bad loss, they are convinced that their team is doomed, no matter what.
Conversely, Browns fans as a whole seem to be sky-high right now, riding the momentum from an exciting win. They are feeling very confident now both in quarterback Jacoby Brissett and especially kicker Cade York. More likely, look for something in-between, a very suspenseful game in which both teams have a shot at winning. The Browns deserve to be favorites, but the Jets are not nearly as hopeless as they might seem in overreaction week two. Look out, Browns, don’t get cocky.