Saturday, October 28, 2006

Throw the Tarp Away and Turn on the Sprinklers

The New York Jets are the kind of team I hoped that the Cleveland Browns had a chance to be this year. A lousy team last year, the Jets have achieved a level of mediocrity this season to which the Browns can only aspire. The Jets currently boast a 4-3 record, and trail division-leader New England by only a single game.

The Jets' improvement has come courtesy of a good bit of offensive firepower and a schedule that is a freaking joke. New York's wins have come against such NFL superpowers as Tennessee, Buffalo, Miami and Detroit. They get to face three of those teams again during the second half of the season, along with Houston, Oakland and Green Bay. Where do the Browns go to sign up for a schedule like that?

To New York's credit, the team also made some pretty good offseason decisions. So far, the best of these appears to have been the decision to hang on to the injury-plagued Chad Pennington, whom they came perilously close to dumping. Pennington has rewarded them by throwing for more yards than anybody else in the AFC except Peyton Manning. Pennington also ranks 5th in the conference in passer rating and has thrown nine touchdown passes. Of course, he's had a little help. Receiver Laveranues Coles has caught 42 balls for 566 yards, and ranks second in the AFC in both receptions and yardage.

The Jets are also reaping the benefits of what looks to be a very solid draft. They used two first round picks to improve their offensive line, adding tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and former Buckeye center Nick Mangold. Both Mangold and Ferguson have met or exceeded expectations. Another Jets' rookie who has made a big splash so far is fourth round pick Leon Washington. The former Florida State running back has rushed for almost 350 yards and is averaging nearly five yards per carry, and only New England's Laurence Maroney has rushed for more yardage among NFL rookie backs.

Fortunately for the Browns, New York's defense stinks. The Jets have given up a staggering 372 yards per game, ranking them 30th out of 32 NFL teams. What's worse, the team has given up more touchdowns (21) than anyone else in the AFC, and more rushing touchdowns (14) than anyone in football.

In light of these numbers, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out the Browns' game plan for tomorrow-- control the football and keep the Jets' offense off the field. Tony Grossi suggests that new offensive coordinater Jeff Davidson shake things up a bit. I say to hell with that, at least for tomorrow. The forecast calls for more rain today and tonight, and 25-40 m.p.h. winds tomorrow. Keep the tarp off, turn the sprinklers on and give the ball to Droughns 40 times.

This is another game that I've talked myself into believing that the Browns have a shot at. I can't predict a win for the good guys, but if they do pull it off, I won't be too shocked. Jets 20, Browns 13.

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