CLEVELAND – Throw out the Browns' record and forget that they haven’t won a game since Sam Darnold was a redshirt freshman at USC preparing to play Penn State in the Rose Bowl. That’s what the Jets are doing.
The Jets aren’t taking Cleveland lightly, nor should they. They look at the Browns as a dangerous and hungry team, close to breaking through and ending a 19-game winless streak.
No one wants to be the team the Browns finally beat, but that’s not the approach the Jets are taking into Thursday night’s game in Cleveland.
“That hasn’t gone through my head,” cornerback Trumaine Johnson said. “I don’t sleep past nobody. Whoever’s the better team is going to win the game on Sunday, Thursday or Monday night. But that has not crossed my mind. I’m going in this game as a Super Bowl game for me.”
The Jets have prepared for the Browns as they would any opponent and on a short week. Players have done more film work at home to get ready for this prime-time game while trying to make sure they’re physically and mentally ready to play their third game in 11 days.
Everyone knows the Browns' plight. They went 1-15 two years ago, 0-16 last season, and are 0-1-1 this year after tying the Steelers and losing by three to the Saints. The Jets know they’re not the Same Old Browns. Their last victory was Dec. 24, 2016, over the Chargers.
“We wouldn’t overlook them at all,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “We even talked about it from the offseason and some of the trades they made, they’ve been building. I don’t know if people haven’t been paying attention. They’ve been adding pieces and pieces and they’ve got a lot of great athletes on that team. They just keep adding weapons to that team. I’m not sleeping on this team whatsoever.”
The biggest pickups were dual-threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor, star receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Carlos Hyde. But the Browns also improved their defense. They acquired defensive backs E.J. Gaines and Damarious Randall and drafted cornerback Denzel Ward, who has two interceptions already.
The Jets don't even look at the Browns’ record.
“Hell no,” Jenkins said. “The athletes on that team and the way they play, the record doesn’t do them justice in that manner.”
“They’re a good team,” Johnson said. “We’re most definitely not looking past them."
The Jets shouldn’t need any motivation. But if they do, the oddsmakers have made the Browns three-point favorites. It’s the first time they’ve been favored at home since 2015 and just the second time overall since then.
But the Jets are in no position to overlook anyone. They’re 1-1 and missed the playoffs the past seven years. They're coming off a 20-12 loss to Miami, in which they turned the ball over three times, made costly defensive penalties and had a blown assignment late in the game that allowed Miami to run out the clock.
The Browns had chances to win both of their games. Zane Gonzalez missed three field goals and two extra points, and he was cut on Monday. The Browns are coming in raring to go and desperate for their first win in 21 months.
“We’re very hungry,” coach Hue Jackson said. “I think we’re close. We’re closer now than we’ve ever been. We’ve been in both games with chances to win and haven’t done that. That’s probably as close as you can be without winning the game. We've got to go find a way and make enough plays and give us an opportunity to secure victory.”
They have the Jets’ attention because of their skill players. While with the Bills, Taylor threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more in five games against the Jets. Landry, a former Dolphin, has averaged 10 catches in eight games versus the Jets.
But the Browns also have a tough defense that probably will blitz Darnold early and often. Myles Garrett is one of the NFL’s best pass rushers – he has two sacks and two forced fumbles. The Browns are a league-best plus-six in turnover differential.
Todd Bowles reminded the Jets that the teams' last two meetings were close games. The Jets won by three in 2016 and in 2017 – both in Cleveland. But the Browns are much better now. The Jets will try to win the game, not avoid being the team that loses to the Browns.
“Outside looking in and some of the fans might be thinking that, but in house we don’t think about it like that,” Jenkins said. “Both years we played them it’s been a close game. We know what kind of team this is and we know how dangerous they are. So we already know what’s coming toward us."
Notes & quotes: The Jets waived WR ArDarius Stewart. A third-round pick in 2017, Stewart was eligible to join the roster after serving a two-game suspension, but the Jets decided to move on from him.