JETS // BROWNS OVERVIEW
Because this game is so unappealing for the 16-game slate, I am going to focus specifically on the Showdown slate in this week’s writeup. You can comfortably avoid all players from this game on the 16-game slate, with two “growing pains” offenses and a pair of underrated defenses. But if playing the Showdown slate, here’s how things break down.
Each of these teams is fairly unaggressive, with a slow Situation Neutral pace. Todd Haley is still struggling to figure out how to get the most out of his new weapons for the Browns, and Jeremy Bates is trying to limit the amount he puts on the shoulders of Sam Darnold early in the season for the Jets, with lots of pre-snap movement and quick, easy decisions. Neither team is going anywhere this season, but each has the pieces to become a team on the rise. Mistakes will be made in this game, on both sides, and drives will stall out in places where they shouldn’t; but there are a few pieces here that catch the eye.
THE “SURE THINGS”
The surest thing in this game is Quincy Enunwa. Not only is Sam Darnold an accurate passer, and not only is his connection with Enunwa looking sharp early on, but the Browns give up so many free yards on defense, Enunwa matches up with them perfectly. The Browns got flamed last week by Michael Thomas’ big body when he ran out of the slot, and while Enunwa is not Michael Thomas, he enters a similar situation. It seems impossible that Enunwa can continue soaking up 33.9% of the Jets’ targets, but he is clearly the main cog in this offense, and he is being used in a way that aligns perfectly with how the Browns play defense.
Lost in the disappointment of Jarvis Landry’s game in Week 2 was the fact that he still saw seven targets on 30 pass attempts, and he has soaked up a 31.4% share of the Browns’ targets so far. This does not project to be a fast-paced or high-scoring game, so perhaps neither Landry nor Enunwa posts what would be considered a “great score” on the weekend. But these two have the highest chance of success on the small slate. Pricing reflects that, of course; and ownership will also reflect that. But the targets are locked in on both these guys.
THE RUSHING ATTACKS
It will not be surprising — in fact, it is perhaps even probable — that one of the four key running backs in this game will outscore both Enunwa and Landry. The issue is that it will be difficult to know exactly which running back that will be.
After finishing as a Top Five run defense last season, the Browns have already climbed into the top half of the league after getting embarrassed by James Conner in Week 1. The Jets also rank in the top half of the league at the moment, after finishing 15th in yards allowed per carry last season.
This game should stay fairly close throughout (each offense is explosive enough to jump out to a 10-point lead somewhere along the line; but I don’t see things getting out of hand on either side, as these teams are fairly well-matched). This means we cannot “expect” game flow to tilt in one particular running back’s favor, and as such we should aim to understand what each matchup is likeliest to dictate.
As the game moves along this week, I expect the Jets to lean more heavily on Bilal Powell than on Isaiah Crowell. While both guys can catch passes, and both can run between the tackles, Powell is far better-suited to the first, and Crow is slightly better-suited to the second. If the Browns’ run defense shows up to play, it will make sense for the Jets to adjust away from Crow and toward Powell. Touchdowns are harder to come by for Powell than for Crow, but overall upside (as well as likelihood of hitting) are higher on the Jets’ “space” back.
The Browns, meanwhile, have talked about needing to get Duke Johnson more involved…which muddles things a bit in a spot where Hyde sets up well. As a multi-dimensional back in a game that should not turn too heavily toward catch-up mode at any point, Hyde should be locked into around 20 touches — which is his average from the first two weeks. But there is a chance that Johnson mixes in a bit more often than he has through the first two weeks of the season.
The likeliest scenario on the Browns is that Johnson’s increase in touches will come on his regular snaps (or…even more likely: that the Browns will have a couple designed plays for Johnson early in the game, and will then forget about him afterward outside his normal role). And if that happens, Hyde will have the highest touch floor on the slate. The Browns are underutilizing him in the pass attack (three targets through two games), and with Tyrod Taylor looking to run at times and Todd Haley incapable of creativity with this offense, that may not change. But the touches are, at least, nice to lock onto a roster.
Tyrod Taylor provides a range of about 15 to 25 points, as a low-upside passer with multiple dimensions to his game. Darnold profiles to see a bit of extra volume as this game moves along, against the Browns’ tough run defense, and the Jets will try to get the ball out quickly to offset the impact of Myles Garrett. The question marks on Darnold (young rookie in his third career game) make his floor difficult to peg; but given how poor the Browns are on defense after the catch, there is opportunity for guys like Enunwa, Powell, and Robby Anderson to create a really nice box score for Darnold in this spot.
The Browns spread their passes around last week, with seven targets going to David Njoku, seven going to Rashard Higgins, and four going to Antonio Calloway. The Jets were strong against tight ends last season, ranking ninth in DVOA and allowing the fifth-fewest receptions to the position. Njoku has seen 14 targets in all this season and his athleticism marks him as an upside play; though I’ll repeat what I said each of the first two weeks: he is a sloppy route runner, and as such, his floor is a lot lower against good tight end defenses. His ceiling is there, but don’t be surprised if he fails to take advantage of his opportunities for the third straight week. Higgins is the “floor” play that will need a broken play or a touchdown to pay off. Calloway has big-play upside — both downfield and with the ball in his hands — and has week-winning upside if the work is there; but as a raw rookie playing in this offense, his floor is also low.
The Jets are focused on Enunwa first and foremost, and it seems unlikely that they get going with their downfield passing attack this week against the Browns’ pass rush. Robby Anderson never loses his ceiling, as he can score from anywhere on the field; but his floor has to be pegged pretty low in this spot. Terrelle Pryor was heavily involved last week, but his efficiency remains a question, and he has made a few brutal mistakes on the field the last couple weeks. He has maybe a 5% chance of posting the top score on the slate. He also has maybe a 10% to 15% chance of losing some snaps this week to Jermaine Kearse. The tight end rotation on the Jets is best avoided. This offense flows primarily through the wide receivers and the backs.
I prefer Enunwa over Landry, as Enunwa sets up better against the Browns’ defense than Landry sets up against the Jets, and a target from Sam Darnold (in this Jeremy Bates offense) is worth more than a target from Tyrod Taylor (in this Todd Haley offense). But they are 1A and 1B on this slate, in terms of Pure Floor & Ceiling.
For safety, I would rank the running backs:
Powell // Crowell (Powell ahead, but only slightly)
For upside, I would rank them:
Crowell // Johnson (Johnson is the better player, but his usage is far more uncertain)
Ancillary wide receivers are difficult to fall in love with in this spot. Calloway is the sexiest name and will probably draw a lot of interest in spite of only seeing four targets last week. I still like him as the highest-ceiling guy out of this thin group. I’m guessing Njoku will get hyped up by people this week, and he has the athleticism to smash; but keep in mind what he did the last couple weeks with plenty of targets in similarly difficult matchups. His “boom” upside is there, but he’s still “boom/bust.” The Jets’ pass catchers behind Enunwa are purely guesses. Robby Anderson is too good to not get a few blowup games, but workload is currently insecure, and this will be a difficult game to go deep — against Myles Garrett, and with the Browns giving away free yards underneath. Pryor should be on the field plenty, but you’re just hoping things fall into place if you roster him. He has upside, but he has floor to go with it.
The defenses are also appealing. I lean Browns first, as the home favorite against a rookie. But the Jets have played aggressive football the first two games, and Tyrod Taylor has been holding onto the ball too long. There is upside on both sides of the ball.
With so little to love this week, it should also be noted that either kicker (Greg Joseph is the new man for the Browns) could easily clear 10 points. Quarterbacks and the two “sure things” are the only players with a significantly better chance of passing 10 points than these kickers; though I do expect at least one of the running backs to outscore these guys as well.
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