What to watch for in Browns-Jets on Monday night
From whence the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns locked helmets for the first occasion of Monday Night Football at Cleveland Municipal Stadium all the way back in the autumn of 1970 until tonight’s reunion under the lights at MetLife Stadium, 779 game have played out on MNF.
As the NFL celebrates its 100th season, it roles out a nod to the Browns-Jets showdown that was the genesis of football’s appointment television during the week.
In a week in which the Jets and Sam Darnold brought mono back into the social consciousness, New York heads into primetime absent a host of its star players.
In contrast, the Browns are brimming with star power, but are coming off a weak opening act for a season in which the talent was prognosticated to match the hype for a Cleveland squad seemingly on the rise.
From Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham to Le’Veon Bell, big names abound even with those who won’t make the field.
Here’s what to watch for when the Jets host the Browns tonight in the 781st Monday Night Football game:
1. Will the real Browns show up or did we already see them in Week 1?
In many ways, it was the Browns’ Week 3 win over the Jets last season that started all this.
That’s when Mayfield left the bench, led the Browns to a win and never looked back.
It was the first win of a 7-8-1 season that stirred hope for a new dawn in Cleveland, one in which the Browns were predicted to do big things with a young QB as brash as he was talented, complimented by a starry set of skill position players that included Beckham — the highlight of a phenomenal offseason. And the defense, keyed by Myles Garrett was supposed to be just as stupendous.
And maybe it can and will be.
The Browns began the season with a 43-13 loss to the Titans that was ugly, puzzling and popped the hype bubble.
Most believe the Browns will win tonight and should do so convincingly. That’s why this game is so important for the Browns, because it’s time for them to start doing what everyone, including a talented cast of players, believes they should be doing.
2. Can Le’Veon Bell be the Jets’ lone star?
There was some concern that Bell wouldn’t make it for this one, but he seems good to go, a shoulder issue not enough to stop him as he’ll be looked on to shoulder the load for a depleted Jets squad.
Trevor Siemian will be quarterbacking the Jets, but in terms of production, Bell will need to lead the way.
And the setting is right.
Better than any back in Monday night lore, Bell averages 112 yards rushing and 169 scrimmage yards per MNF game.
If the Jets have a shot, they’ll need Bell’s outstanding Monday night norm to do so.
3. Next men up for Gang Green
There’s been plenty of jokes at the Jets’ expense in the wake of Darnold’s mononucleosis diagnosis. But linebacker C.J. Mosely, very much the quarterback of the defense, is out with a groin injury. First-round defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, the loveable man-child with the great grin, will be smiling from the sideline with an ankle injury. Starting offensive linemen Kelvin Beachum and Brian Winters are also questionable as the Jets’ injury report basically resembles its roster.
As it relates to silver linings and the NFL, they’re really nonexistent, but the Jets will see how much mettle they have tonight with players grinding through injuries and second-stringers stepping up.
In many ways, the Jets are full of fresh faces that we’re getting to know and know well. Tonight’s a chance for others to step up in the national spotlight.
4. Will we see same-old spectacular OBJ on MNF?
There’s been much ado made about Beckham’s comments about Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams nudging his players to take OBJ out of the game.
There’s also the intrigue of a Jamal Adams-led secondary matching up with Beckham and Jarvis Landry.
But this is Beckham’s return to East Rutherford, where he starred for so many seasons with the Jets.
And OBJ’s MetLife return is also on a Monday and nobody’s ever been better on Mondays than Beckham.
To say Beckham will be in a comfortable setting is an understatement.
Since its opening in 2010, MetLife has housed no more successful receiving act than Beckham, whose 198 catches for 2,900 yards and 23 touchdowns are all stadium-bests. And since OBJ’s introduction to the league in 2014, his 51 catches for 755 yards and seven scores on Monday night are likewise the best in that timeframe.
It’s the time and place for Beckham to shine.
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