(Odell Beckham Jr. photo courtesy Scott Galvin/USA TODAY Sports)
This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.
Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.
Week 2 of the NFL season concludes Monday night with a pair of teams looking to bounce back from disheartening losses in contrasting fashion as Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns face Trevor Siemian and the New York Jets.
For Mayfield, the game brings his brief career almost full circle — he made his NFL debut in last year’s Week 3 matchup against the Jets after Tyrod Taylor got hurt and rallied the Browns from a 14-point halftime deficit to a 21-17 victory that ended Cleveland’s 20-game winless streak that dated back to Week 16 of the 2016 season.
The 2018 No. 1 overall pick was the entrenched starter by the end of his rookie season, but his 2019 debut did not go according to plan. The NFL’s “it” team of the summer following the acquisitions of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and currently suspended running back Kareem Hunt, it was Mayfield’s arm and decision-making that betrayed the Browns in their 43-13 home loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 8.
Sam Darnold, taken two picks behind Mayfield by the Jets at No. 3, had an up-and-down 2018 in which he was the full-time starter from Week 1, but appeared to have found his groove in the final four games of his rookie campaign. Darnold has a new coach in Adam Gase and a new running back in Le’Veon Bell, but New York looked like the same old Jets in blowing a 16-point third-quarter lead at home in losing to the Buffalo Bills 17-16 on Sept. 8.
And in keeping with the theme of the Jets being a star-crossed franchise, Gase announced Thursday that Darnold is out indefinitely due to a case of mononucleosis. About the lone positive is that the quarterback’s absence from games could be limited because the Jets have their bye week during Week 4.
Siemian will make his Jets debut after signing as a free agent in the offseason. Last year’s backup Josh McCown originally retired after last season, but signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after they lost backup Nate Sudfeld to a broken wrist in the preseason.
Browns Week 1 in Review
Mayfield threw three interceptions just once in 14 games last season, which made the three he threw in the final 14:21 trying to rally the Browns from a 22-13 deficit all the more surprising. To add insult to the INTs, Malcolm Butler took the last one 38 yards for a touchdown to complete a 21-point fourth quarter for the Titans.
Mayfield finished with 285 yards while completing 25 of 38 passes but was also sacked five times in addition to the three picks as the Browns lost their 15th consecutive season opener. Beckham finished with seven receptions for 71 yards but made his final catch less than four minutes into the third quarter.
“We’ve got a locker room full of disappointment right now, which we should have,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said post-game. “This is not the way we want to be represented. We lost our discipline, we lost our composure. … But it’s one game. We’re going to be tested. Adversity, you take it and you either run together and run toward each other, or run away. And we’re going to run toward each other.
“It’s one game. Each game counts one time, and that’s the way we’re going to approach it.”
Cleveland shot itself in the foot repeatedly with penalties, finishing with six personal fouls and a whopping 18 overall for 182 yards, which negated holding Tennessee to 2 for 10 on third down.
Jets Week 1 in Review
Despite Gase’s reputation as a creative mastermind, the Jets offense struggled to gain a rhythm with an offensive line lacking cohesion and unable to knock the Bills off the line of scrimmage.
It was New York’s defense, though, that shined early and into the second half as big summer signing C.J. Mosley led a ball-hawking defense with an interception return for a touchdown on Buffalo’s second possession and was one of four takeaways the Jets recorded.
But the game turned when Mosley was forced off the field in the third quarter with a groin injury, and the Bills took full advantage with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives that accounted for 165 of their total 370 yards.
Darnold could only get the Jets as far as their own 40-yard line on a potential game-winning drive and finished with just 175 passing yards despite completing 28 passes as wide receivers Robby Anderson and Quincy Enuwa had just four catches between them, with the longest going for nine yards.
“We were inept on offense,” Gase succinctly told The Associated Press.
New York’s sputtering offense was not the only one at fault as kicker Kaare Vedvik’s missed extra point after Mosley’s touchdown and poorly hit 45-yard missed field goal in the first half loomed large. Vedvik was cut Tuesday as the Jets are now on their fourth kicker of the season with the signing of Sam Ficken.
Ficken appeared in four games with the Los Angeles Rams over the past two seasons, converting 14 of 15 extra points but only 3 of 6 field goals — with two of those misses coming inside of 40 yards.
About the lone bright spot offensively was Bell’s debut with the Jets. The running back showed no ill-effects of being held out of the entire preseason as he finished with 92 yards from scrimmage and made a nice adjustment on a low pass by Darnold to haul in a nine-yard touchdown pass. Bell finished with 60 yards on 17 carries but was left disappointed by the loss.
“It’s definitely overshadowed by losing,” Bell said about becoming the fastest player in NFL history to reach 8,000 yards from scrimmage. “Obviously, it’s a nice accolade, I guess, but right now it don’t really matter. I’m just trying to get a `W.”
Browns run offense vs. Jets run defense
While almost all of the talk regarding the Browns offense revolves around Baker Mayfield and the passing game, sleep on running back Nick Chubb at your own risk.
Chubb finished with 75 yards in 17 carries against the Titans, but it was a disjointed performance by the offense in general as Mayfield tried to get everything back quickly attempting to rally the Browns and succeeded only in making a bigger hole.
“Games like that, you don’t get over until you find a way to win,” Chubb said Thursday at his media availability.
The second-year running back was a bit player in last year’s win for Cleveland, backing up Carlos Hyde and getting two carries for six yards. One interesting note about the Browns’ play-calling is that Chubb got back-to-back carries just once against the Titans with the outcome still in doubt, something that could change in this contest with the Jets struggling to contain cutbacks last week versus Buffalo.
If the Week 1 loss is any indication, it is the Jets’ fortunes on defense ride with linebacker C.J. Moseley, perhaps unfairly so since New York is already without fellow linebacker Avery Williamson for the season with a torn ACL.
Still, when Moseley was on the field for most of the first three quarters before injuring his groin, the Jets did nearly everything right defensively and accounted for eight points with his interception return for a touchdown and a safety when Brian Poole and Jordan Jenkins tackled Frank Gore in the end zone.
The aggressiveness of Gregg Williams’ schemes, however, does occasionally offer running backs cutback lanes on overpursuit, something Devin Singletary did to great effect as he had three runs of 12 or more yards and totaled 70 on just four carries. Chubb has similar capabilities, so the front seven must be on guard for such late movement.
Browns pass offense vs. Jets pass defense
He will never catch a pass or score a touchdown in the NFL, but Richard Mille is now a household name thanks to Beckham, who sported a $190,000 watch while playing last week versus Tennessee.
For most players, that would have been enough of a statement. Beckham did play well in his Browns debut, finishing with seven catches for 71 yards while Mayfield targeted him 11 times. But with Beckham making his first New York City-area appearance Monday night since being dealt by the Giants in the offseason, he came in hot Thursday during media availability and accused the Jets defensive coordinator and former Browns interim head coach of coaching “dirty plays and cheap shots” while blaming him for his leg injuries that cost him 16 games over the last two seasons.
While Beckham’s comments will cause a stir, Mayfield has to show better decision-making after his three picks in the fourth quarter on successive possessions. The second-year quarterback owned up to those mistakes, noting he hung onto the ball too long on more than one occasion.
“Definitely holding on to it. Get rid of the ball,” Mayfield said on areas where he can improve. “We can be better overall as an offense. It ultimately comes back on me. I need to get everybody on the same page.”
The Jets showed plenty of push against Buffalo’s offensive line, recording nine quarterback hurries while Jenkins looked ready to build on his career-high seven sacks from 2018 by recording New York’s lone sack.
The challenge this week, though, falls more upon cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts given the upgrade of opposition in Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Roberts in particular had a rough game versus Buffalo as he allowed eight completions for 96 yards and a touchdown on passes thrown his way, and Johnson was not much better (6 for 8, 105 yards).
It is essentially a “ride or die” secondary as Johnson, Roberts, and safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye were on the field for all 70 defensive snaps against Buffalo. Simply put, they have to get better because there is no one behind them after Poole.
Jets run offense vs Browns run defense
After being kept under wraps in the preseason, Bell did about as well as could be expected for someone who had not played since the end of the 2017 season. In a week of already bad news, there is the potential for more as Bell was undergoing an MRI on his shoulder, but Gase said it was more as a precaution and expects the three-time 1,000-yard rusher to be available.
There is still a feeling-out process going on with Bell and the Jets’ offensive line, which is still a work in progress as center Ryan Kalil is still scraping off the rust after being lured out of retirement. Bell is one of the more patient runners in the league when it comes to finding holes, but Kalil thinks things will improve for the O-line with improved communication.
Cleveland’s run defense was not all that great as Derrick Henry finished with 84 yards on 19 carries, though part of that could be attributed to Adarius Taylor injuring his ankle on the third defensive play from scrimmage.
Taylor’s status for this game is uncertain, but the Browns have another issue regarding depth following the tragic death of Chris Smith’s girlfriend Wednesday in a car accident less than a month after she gave birth to the couple’s first child. Browns coach Freddie Kitchens did not address whether Smith would accompany the team to New York, instead focusing on the grieving process for his defensive end.
“I know from an emotional standpoint, we are going to support Chris, I am going to support Chris and his teammates are going to support Chris,” Kitchens said Thursday. “I have not even given one thought about that. I do not want Chris to even think about that. I told him yesterday, this is beyond [football], OK?
“We can make it whatever we want to as people in the business, people covering the business – I am not saying you are – I am just saying in general, this is life. We like to say different things about life when it really does not matter. When it starts affecting you, it gets serious.”
Jets pass offense vs Browns pass defense
The challenge for Gase ahead of this game is to find out what Siemian’s limitations are offensively in terms of arm strength in the passing game. He had already gotten extra reps earlier in the week when Darnold was thought to have only strep throat, so adjustments are being made at a quickened pace.
“Nothing really crazy for us,” Gase said regarding alterations to the game plan with the switch in quarterback. “The way we have it built, it’s really flexible to where Trevor is good. We thought [Sam] was sick yesterday, they ran more tests, so with Trevor being able to practice yesterday, that’ll help us.”
What will also help is someone other than slot receiver Jamison Crowder getting open to help stretch the Browns defense. Crowder was magnificent in catching all but three of the 17 passes Darnold threw his way, but Robby Anderson and newly acquired Demaryius Thomas must give him help, especially with Quincy Enuwa lost for the season with a neck injury.
The passing game is also hurt by the absence of starting tight end Chris Herndon, who is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance policy.
Much like their run defense, the Browns struggled to contain the Titans passing game despite sacking Marcus Mariota four times. The 75-yard screen pass touchdown to Henry was particularly brutal as no one was able to get a hand on him.
The Browns are hoping elevating rookie Greedy Williams to starting cornerback above Terrance Mithell at cornerback opposite second-year starter Denzel Ward will address some of those shortcomings.
“I just did what I did, just kept my mouth shut and put my best foot forward at practice,” Williams said after Monday’s film sessions according to WKYC-TV. “Anytime you graduate to the next level and it’s your first game, you’re nervous. You just plan not to mess up.”
The Rest of the Story
Austin Seibert did not have much work in terms of kicking duties for the Browns as he missed one of his two extra points and did not get to attempt a field goal. While only one of his three kickoffs resulted in a touchback, Cleveland’s coverage team was solid by yielding just 27 return yards on the two runbacks.
Jamie Gillan had a solid debut, putting three of his five punts inside the opposing 20 and forcing four fair catches. None of his punts were returned while averaging 46.6 yards.
This game will be an interesting proving ground for Kitchens, whose biggest task he can control is getting his team to cut down on the egregious amount of penalties it took versus Tennessee. Eighteen is a staggering number, but when factoring in six personal fouls that in theory could all have been prevented, that is something on him to get his team to settle down.
He has said all the right things in his handling of the tragic death of Smith’s girlfriend, while the Beckham-Williams sidebar may be something that requires his attention between now and kickoff.
If it’s Tuesday, it must be time for another kicker. Short of tripping and landing on his face while attempting a field goal, Ficken could not possibly be any worse than Vedvik, whose 45-yard field goal against the Bills did not come close to being good.
Special teams got sorely overlooked in the offseason transition as a pair of standout players — kicker Jason Myers and return man Andre Roberts — were let go with barely any challenge to keep either. It is hard to believe, but the Jets turned their kicker issues into something worse than what the Bears had with Cody Parkey.
Gase’s first week between games as Jets coach has been an eventful one, starting with his public calling out of players for their mistakes against the Bills. That went directly counter to predecessor Todd Bowles, who took pains to keep everything in-house with regards to criticizing his players.
Gase was also willing to turn the microscope on himself publicly, admitting to play-calling mistakes and areas he sees room for self-improvement. Losing his starting quarterback and one of his starting receivers in Week 2 in addition to having already lost a starting linebacker is a tough set of obstacles to overcome, and there will be much to examine about the resiliency of his team with this contest.
In the end…
The play is the Browns, even with the novelty of them being road favorites for the first time in seven years. Darnold’s absence is simply going to be too much for the Jets to overcome offensively, and the likely bounce-back efforts from Mayfield, Beckham, and Landry against a suspect New York secondary should result in a relatively high-scoring game in which the over hits.
The Beckham-vs-Williams tete-a-tete took an interesting, and in some ways expected turn with Williams offering an angry retort to Beckham’s accusations while taking a shot at the receiver by saying “Odell who?” when asked about him during his press conference.
But the combination of Williams’ aggressive play-calling and Jets linebacker Mosley ruled out for this contest, there are just too many opportunities for the Browns to hit on a big play for it to not happen on multiple occasions. The Jets defensive line has to be dominant in this game, and while the potential is there, Cleveland’s offense has the talent and playmakers to negate them.
Three Prop Plays We Like:
Nick Chubb OVER 80.5 yards (-114)
Jamison Crowder OVER 48.5 yards (-114)
Jarvis Landry OVER 56.5 yards (-114)
Neither Browns receiver is a bad play, but taking Landry is the path of least resistance against a rather thin Jets secondary with Beckham likely lined up against Jets top cornerback Trumaine Johnson. Crowder, though, may wind up being the best bet of the bunch, though it may take him seven or more catches to get there given his Week 1 catch pattern.
The expectation is still for the Browns to cover, but the over/under may be a little closer for comfort. If the Jets get two touchdowns, the over should hit, but this one may have to be sweated out.
For first-half picks, the best of the bunch is taking the Browns OVER 12.5 points, with the expectation Mayfield is able to move the ball consistently. The first-half over/under of 22 is more dicey since the Jets reaching double figures that would make that number hit is not a given. Laying the 3.5 points with the Browns in the first half is a better play than taking it with the Jets.