Dissecting Most Crucial Matchups in New York Jets Week 16 Contest Against Browns
The Jets are 0-7 in the final three weeks of the regular season under head coach Rex Ryan since 2011, a recurring blemish that will likely result in the dismissal of New York's boisterous "leader."
The Jets' pitfall cannot be entirely attributed to Ryan, although it seems likely for the defensive mastermind to adopt the role of scapegoat upon the conclusion of the 2013 campaign.
Ryan was dealt a bad hand this season, specifically in the wake of salary cap mayhem. The Jets' fifth-year head honcho was exceptional in building one of the most formidable front sevens in the NFL last offseason, but he remains vastly outmatched in regard to implementing a winning formula on offense.
New York's can't-watch offense is led by unseasoned rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who has struggled on a massive level all season. The turnover-prone signal-caller has been crippled by an extreme lack of surrounding playmakers, though, which could ultimately earn him a reprise in 2014.
As the season begins to dwindle for the Jets, the team once dubbed No. 32 in the ESPN NFL Power Rankings, prepares for a showdown with the Browns. A win would grant Gang Green an opportunity to finish the season at the .500 mark in Week 17.
The following slideshow analyzes four crucial matchups in the Jets' final home game of the season against Cleveland.
Antonio Cromartie (Jets CB) vs. Josh Gordon (Browns WR)
Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is arguably the biggest big-play threat in the NFL, next to Calvin Johnson. Gordon averages 122.3 receiving yards per game. He's racked up nearly 1,500 total receiving yards and nine touchdowns on the season.
The Jets' lead cornerback Antonio Cromartie has struggled throughout the 2013 campaign, largely due to injury, but he will likely draw the matchup against Gordon on Sunday. If the Jets are going to outlast the Browns to win their seventh game of the season, Cromartie needs to effectively neutralize Gordon's big-play ability.
The Jets boast one of the best front sevens in the NFL, led by defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. Gang Green has been vulnerable in pass defense, though, often giving up key receptions at inopportune times, like third down.
New York's secondary has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete over 60 percent of their pass attempts this season, resulting in a 93.9 cumulative quarterback rating against. The Jets have also given up 25 touchdown passes on the season, the sixth most in the league.
Gordon presents a complex mismatch on the perimeter against the Jets, specifically because of his keen ability to beat double-coverage downfield. Gordon features electric speed burst ability and can easily blow past safety help over the top.
Gordon averages 19.8 yards per reception, while the Jets surrender 7.5 yards per pass attempt. If the Jets are going to prevent the Browns' most dynamic playmaking weapon from beating them in Week 16, Cromartie needs to check Gordon at the line of scrimmage and stall him from getting open downfield.
Chris Ivory (Jets RB) vs. Browns D-Line
Jets running back Chris Ivory has been a solid proponent on offense, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Ivory averages only 12.1 carries per contest, but he has steadily become a more integrated element of the Jets' offensive game plan through the progressions of this season.
Ivory has officially started just five games in 2013 but has earned at least 11 carries in four of five contests since the Jets' bye week. The 220-pound back figures to receive the bulk of the workload against the Browns on Sunday. Cleveland's rush defense is stout, but isn't impenetrable.
The Browns give up 3.7 yards per carry but consistently allow over 100 rushing yards per game. The Jets' vast struggles at quarterback have forced offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to rely heavily upon the ground game to sustain drives, fueling a necessity for Ivory to perform at a high level every week.
New York averages 17.6 points per game, ranking second-to-last in the NFL, whereas Cleveland allows 25.9 points per contest. The Jets need to effectively exploit the Browns' eighth-ranked rush defense on Sunday by pounding Ivory between the tackles.
The Jets' durable cowbell was a question mark before the 2013 season began, specifically because of a nagging hamstring pull that fueled speculation about his proneness to injury. Ivory hasn't been spectacular, scoring only two touchdowns, but he's been efficient.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson (Jets LT) vs. Barkevious Mingo (Browns OLB)
Browns edge-rusher Barkevious Mingo was rumored to be a possible draft target for the Jets last spring, according to the Star-Ledger's Conor Orr. At 240 pounds, Mingo features an appropriate balance of speed and power to shred through should-be blockers and penetrate the backfield.
The rookie outside linebacker has posted respectable numbers this season, recording 24 tackles and five sacks in three starts. Mingo has performed at a consistent level throughout his first season as a pro and is primarily used in pass rushing situations.
The Jets offensive line has struggled to protect Smith in the pocket all season, forcing added pressure on left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson to prevent Mingo from blasting off the edge to wreak havoc on Smith this Sunday.
Gang Green has allowed 47 sacks this season, the second most in the NFL. A large contributing component of that statistic is Smith's seeming inept ability to uncork a pass in time. His constant tendency to turn the ball over has noticeably caused him to hang onto the football for too long in the pocket, adding to his sack tally.
Mingo typically lines up on the right side of the field in the Browns' 4-3 base formation, which pits him directly against Ferguson in the trenches. It'll be crucial for Ferguson to prevent Mingo from swimming past him on the edge if the Jets are going to maintain manageable down-and-distance situations for Smith, who often becomes stymied when frequently pressured in the pocket.
Sheldon Richardson (Jets DL) vs. Joe Thomas (Browns LT)
Browns left tackle Joe Thomas is a rock on the offensive front, consistently preventing pass-rushers from blasting off his block. Thomas will play in his 100th consecutive game on Sunday.
The veteran lineman is an anchor in the trenches that hasn't missed one game since being selected as the third overall pick in the 2007 draft.
Thomas is a three-time All-Pro who has played in all 6,054 offensive snaps since entering the league, according to Rotoworld.com.
Jets rookie defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson could draw the matchup against Thomas. Richardson has exploded onto the scene in his first season as a pro, registering 38 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 13 starts. He's a future Pro Bowler and a stellar complement to Wilkerson on the Jets defensive front.
Richardson will have his hands full against Thomas, who seldom allows defensive linemen to penetrate the backfield. He's the strongest component of the Browns offensive line, which has allowed 43 sacks on the season.
The Jets have a clear-cut opportunity to showcase their dominance on the defensive line if Richardson is able to beat Thomas off his block. The Browns' quarterback carousel is arguably more decrepit than the Jets' on-going situation, leading to an inefficient 56.3 cumulative completion percentage.
Gang Green will look to expose the Browns' lackluster ability to pass protect on Sunday, making Richardson's matchup against Thomas a pivotal element of the game's outcome.