Game Preview: Browns (4-10) vs Jets (6-8)

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets are officially eliminated from the playoffs, but still have a chance of reaching .500 for the season; a record that seemed like a long shot at the start of the year. In their path is a 4-10 Browns team, that have lost five straight, and eight of their last nine.

Dee Milliner and the Jets secondary get a tough test in the NFL's leading receiver, Josh Gordon.

It will be a home game for the Jets, which is an important factor for these two teams. Both have only recorded one win on the road this season. In fact, the two teams are fairly similar. They have top ranked defenses that rely on the dominance of their front seven, and offenses that strike fear into no one.

The lone exception might be Josh Gordon. The receiver for the Browns has gone on a tear in recent weeks. He currently leads the league in receiving yards, despite missing the first two games due to a suspension. In the past five games he has caught 39 passes for 841 yards (an eye-popping 21.6 yards per catch) and six touchdowns, but his team has gone 0-5 in that stretch.

For the Jets, they’ve bounced back from a two-week stretch of six combined points to put up 57 in the last two weeks. They hardly resemble a top-10 unit, but they should be able to keep up with the Browns.

When: Sunday, December 22 2013, 1:00 pm EST (TV-CBS Radio-ESPN)

Where: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

Injury Report (as of Thursday) –

Jets –DNP: S Ed Reed (not injury related) LMT: CB Antonio Cromartie (hip), WR Santonio Holmes (foot, hamstring), CB Ellis Lankster (jaw), DT Sheldon Richardson (wrist, finger), TE Kellen Winslow (knee).

Browns – DNP: WR Davone Bess (not injury related), TE Jordan Cameron (concussion, knee), G John Greco (knee), CB Joe Haden (hip), TE Andre Smith (calf) LMT: RB Willis McGahee (concussion, knee), DE Ahtyba Rubin (calf), T Joe Thomas (back)

Game Keys:

Get Geno running – Marty and Rex have been working to get Smith to use his legs. The added element has clearly helped the offense move, and seems to get him into a rhythm. This will also help offset a Browns pass rush that has totaled 39 sacks this season.

Run in general – The Browns rank 8th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, and are third in the NFL only allowing 3.7 yards per carry. But those numbers have come down in recent weeks. Chicago rushed for 179 yards on 5.8 YPC. The Patriots only managed 87 yards, but on 4.1 YPC. The Jets should stick to their strength of running the ball, and they could find success against this defense on Sunday.

Limit YAC – The Jets have gotten better at limiting the deep pass, but now tackling and pursuit issues have allowed short passes to turn into big plays. The Browns are tenth in the league for yards after the catch. Gordon leads the NFL with an 8.5 YAC average, and is second in the NFL with 608 YAC.

X-Factor:

Muhammad Wilkerson – The Browns have given up 43 sacks this season. Only three teams have let up more. For as good as Gordon has been, it won’t matter if Jason Campbell doesn’t have time to throw him the ball. Wilkerson has had a Pro Bowl season. You want your best players to step up when they are needed, and this is a game he can dominate.

The Pick – The Jets have been a good team at home this season, while the Browns have struggled on the road. As bad as the Jets offense has been at times, it’s starting to round into form these last couple weeks. At the same time the Browns defense has regressed a bit. It could be a difficult game to pick but it will certainly still be worth checking the odds at Bwin.com.

On the other side, already a pretty poor running offense, the Browns should have no luck on the ground in this one. It could be a rough day for Campbell, and even if Gordon gets a few big plays, the Browns will fall just short.

Jets win 23-17

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