In a season filled with declining ratings, the NFL can take solace in one fact: it didn’t try to make Jets-Browns a primetime game.
Two of the league’s bottom feeders will wage war, and this Week 8 showdown may be Cleveland’s last, best hope to win a game in 2016. The Browns have sputtered out to an 0-7 start where each loss has come by an average margin of 11 points. On Sunday they'll face a 2-5 New York team that's been nearly as bad this fall.
The Jets re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick on the eve of training camp this summer only to see the veteran quarterback regress after his breakout 2015 season. He currently leads the league in interceptions despite ceding playing time to Geno Smith the past two weeks. Smith ascended to the starting role in Week 6, then promptly turned it back to Fitzpatrick after tearing his ACL in Week 7. The veteran passer responded with a solid relief outing that pushed New York to 2-5 and primed the team for its first winning streak of the season.
After this week's home game against the Jets, Cleveland's schedule offers few reasonable opportunities for a win. Five of its final eight games come against teams with winning records. The other three come against former playoff standbys Baltimore and Cincinnati, along with a surging San Diego team. New York provides the team's last, best hope to avoid the 0-16 standard set by Detroit back in 2008.
The Browns have installed a revolving door of futility at quarterback in 2016. Cleveland has lined up six different players behind center through seven games including a man best known to the world as clipboard Jesus (Charlie Whitehurst), a third-round rookie (Cody Kessler), a fifth-round rookie already working with his second NFL team (Kevin Hogan), and a wide receiver (Terrelle Pryor).
As a result, the team has scored fewer than 19 points per game and has been unable to unleash the firepower necessary to overcome a weak defense. Cleveland currently ranks in the bottom three when it comes to total defense, scoring defense, and opponent red zone scoring percentage. That will leave Fitzpatrick with a buffet of opportunities to get his season back on track; opposing passers have posted a 106.9 passer rating against the Browns this season. When teams come to Cleveland, their quarterbacks play like the equivalent of a better, more efficient Drew Brees behind center.
Only two of the nine experts over at ESPN are giving Cleveland a chance of breaking its season-long losing streak. It's a similar outlook at CBS, where the picks are 6-2 in favor of the Jets.
SB Nation is the only site surveyed to give Cleveland a 50/50 shot.
|Game||RVB||Stephen White||Thomas George||Jeanna Thomas||Adam Stites||Tyler Tynes||Louis Bien||Joel Thorman||Fooch||OddsShark computer|
|NYJ vs CLE||CLE||CLE||NYJ||CLE||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||CLE||CLE||NYJ|
You can find out which half of our panel will have bragging rights on Sunday. The game airs at 1 p.m. ET on CBS, with streaming available on Sunday Ticket.