Cleveland Browns Must Stop Jets Rushing Attack to Continue Win Streak
Suddenly, the Cleveland Browns are red-hot, putting together back-to-back wins over the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots.
The Browns accomplished the seemingly impossible feat by finding a way to limit two of the NFL's top quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Tom Brady. In the past two games combined, the Browns have outscored opponents, 64-31.
A big reason the Browns defense was able to focus on stopping Brady and Brees is that the Saints and Patriots have often struggled running the football this season.
However, this week's game against the New York Jets presents a completely new challenge: The NFL's fourth-best rushing offense.
While the Patriots and Saints have gained yards through the air at a ratio of two-to-one versus on the ground, the Jets are a much more balanced team on offense.
The experts will say that this makes the Jets a much more difficult team for the Browns to matchup against, as the defense will not be able to focus on only one aspect of the game.
The experts will also say that the Browns' 15th-ranked run defense will have no chance trying to stop a Jets team that averages 148 yards per game on the ground.
However, a deeper look into the numbers reveals a matchup that is not as one-sided as appears at first glance.
What Must Cleveland Do In Order To Pull Off An Upset Over The Jets?
The Jets' leading rusher, LaDainian Tomlinson, has had an impressive resurgence this season and has rushed for nearly 600 yards already with an impressive 4.9 YPC average. While it is true that Tomlinson has looked like a younger and very productive version of himself, it also appears that the season could be quickly catching up with the 10th-year player.
In the past three games combined, Tomlinson has only gained 164 total rushing yards and has dropped to a pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry.
As a team, the Jets have also seen a decline in rushing yards for three consecutive games, sequentially dropping from a season average of nearly 150 yards to team totals of 129, 119 and 110 yards.
For those keeping track, the Jets' three previous opponents all feature defenses ranked lower than the Browns against the run. The Packers rate as the best of the trio with the league's 20th-ranked run defense. The Lions and Broncos rank 30th and 31st, respectively.
Also of note is the fact that the Browns have only allowed one 100-yard rusher all season.
By the way, did you know that Cleveland is the only team in the NFL that has allowed only a single rushing touchdown in 2010?
Perhaps running over the Browns won't be as easy as the experts seem to think.
The bottom line is that pulling of a third consecutive upset will be no easy task for the Cleveland Browns. The New York Jets are a talented team with a stout defense, an emerging young quarterback and a top-tier running game.
For the Browns, winning may be difficult, but it certainly isn't impossible.
If Cleveland can continue to be productive on offense and can find a way to slow the ground game of the Jets, it can force Mark Sanchez to try to beat them through the air.
As Tom Brady and Drew Brees might tell you, that's easier said than done.
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