Monday Night Football returns with what many circled as a potential barnstormer in the preseason, as the Cleveland Browns travel to the Big Apple to face the New York Jets. For the first time in what seemed like forever, two of the most miserable franchises of recent NFL history finally felt that they had something that had eluded them for most of this century: Hope.
Both teams hired offensive-minded head coaches for the 2019 season, as the Browns promoted Freddie Kitchens from within and the Jets grabbed Adam Gase following his ouster in Miami. Both teams added shiny new offensive superstars, the Jets luring Le’Veon Bell to New York in free agency, and the Browns trading for Odell Beckham Jr from the same city via the Giants.
Crucially, they had both finally found their quarterback of the future in last year’s draft, as the Browns picked Baker Mayfield at no.1 overall and the Jets took Sam Darnold two picks later.
With these pieces in place, 2019 was to be the year that both teams would improve, both teams would compete and both teams would finally give their long-suffering fans some glory.
Then, football started.
The Browns laid an egg last week at home against the Tennessee Titans, coughing up 43 points to a team who finished 25th in the NFL in Total Offense last season. The Jets meanwhile managed to go up 16-0 at home to divisional rivals Buffalo by half-time before collapsing in a second half where they allowed 17 points without reply.
With both hype trains officially derailed, which team will get back on track in Week 2?
The Browns. Only the Browns.
This week has seen misery heap upon misery for the New York Jets.
Kicker Kaare Vedvik missed a field goal and an extra point attempt last week against the Bills so was cut in favour of journeyman Sam Ficken. Their wide receivers were unable to get any separation past the sticks last week, and although Le’Veon Bell is likely to play, he needed an MRI after being too aggressive in practice.
Most worryingly of all, however, QB Sam Darnold is out for an indeterminate amount of time with a bout of mono, the Kissing Disease. With diminished weapons and backup Trevor Siemian under centre, the Jets can kiss their chances of toppling the Browns goodbye.
The most interesting loss, however, might prove to be linebacker CJ Mosley, who still hasn’t practised and is unlikely to play.
He was a monster for the Jets in Week 1 while on the field, and as soon as he departed injured in the second half their defence, with a limited pass rush and a no-name secondary, immediately started giving up points.
Expect the Browns to take advantage and pile on by scoring often in this one.
A subplot this week to this matchup has been the jawing back-and-forth between Jets defensive coordinator – and Cleveland’s interim head coach last year -Gregg Williams and Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The former Giants star accused Williams of teaching ‘cheap shots and dirty hits’ to his players, believing Williams targeted him in a preaseason game in 2018 while with the Browns. Williams for his part responded with a laconic ‘Odell who?’ when asked about it by the press.
Beckham is no shrinking violet, so look for him to take revenge on the field on Sunday by torching the Jets’ vulnerable secondary and hauling in the first TD at tasty odds.
Sorry Jets fans. Maybe next year will be different.
*All odds correct at time of posting