What a difference a week makes.
After entering the 2019 season facing sky-high expectations and some of the most hype of any team in the league, the Cleveland Browns already find themselves in what some would argue is a "must-win game." Coming off a 43-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans, which marked the franchise's worst Week 1 loss since 1999, the Browns now enter the second week of the season looking to not only avoid a dreaded 0-2 start but prove that their highly anticipated 2019 campaign won't be fool's gold.
Fortunately for Cleveland, what once appeared to be a formidable Week 2 foe now looks like one of the most beaten-down teams in the league. In the New York Jets, the Browns will be facing a team without its starting quarterback, as well as multiple other key players who don't appear to be at full strength.
And it will all happen under the bright lights of Monday Night Football.
Can the Browns match the hype and pull off a win on national television? Or will they enter Week 3 winless for the fourth consecutive season? We'll find out on Monday Night.
Until then, here's everything you need to know about the Browns' Week 2 matchup vs. the Jets:
Game info, how to watch on TV, betting line:
Date: September 16, 2019
Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
TV channel: WKYC Channel 3 (locally), ESPN (nationally)
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Radio: ESPN 850, 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX
Betting line: Cleveland -7
Over-under point total: 44
Considering the lopsided nature of the Browns' loss to the Titans, Cleveland faces no shortage of questions entering its primetime matchup in Week 2.
In no particular order, the Browns will look to quell concerns about each of the following issues that plagued their season opener:
- A total of 18 penalties, which cost Cleveland 182 yards vs. the Titans
- Shaky offensive line play, which saw its depth tested when Greg Robinson was ejected and Kendall Lamm left the game with a knee injury.
- Inconsistent playcalling, highlighted by running back Nick Chubb only receiving 17 carries.
- An inconsistent secondary, which surrendered 248 passing yards and 3 touchdowns to Marcus Mariota.
- The unproven nature of rookie kicker Austin Seibert, who missed an extra point on the first of the Browns' two touchdowns on Thursday.
While it's too early to overreact to any of these potential issues, each of them is worth keeping an eye on vs. the Jets. Either Cleveland can put to rest some of the concerns it found itself facing after Week 1 or further the belief that this is a more flawed team than originally anticipated entering the season.
While Gregg Williams' presence as the Jets defensive coordinator figured to manufacture several storylines heading into Monday, nobody could have anticipated the bombshell Odell Beckham Jr. would drop about the former Browns defensive coordinator this week.
Speaking to reporters on Thurrsday, the 3-time Pro Bowl wideout revealed that members of the Browns had told him that Williams encouraged them to attempt to injure Beckham during a preseason contest between Cleveland the New York Giants in 2017.
“The only thing I’m buying is I have to probably watch out for the cheap shots and dirty hits and all the things he likes to teach,” said Beckham. “That’s pretty much what we’ve got to watch out for. Other than that, I expect the same two-high safety. I don’t expect man-to-man.
“I had people who were here when he was here (saying), ‘If you get the chance, take a shot at him. If you can, hurt him. I guarantee he’s going to leave the game hurt,’ stuff like that. It’s fine. It’s football, in a sense. We’re all men out there, but there’s no need for doing any of that kind of stuff. You just make the plays the best you can, cleanly.”
After being hit by then-Browns defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Beckham would leave the preseason contest in question with a high ankle sprain, which he believes ultimately resulted in the broken ankle he would suffer later that year.
“It’s something that I’ll never forget,” Beckham said. “It’s something that changed my life forever, so I don’t really regret it. Of course, I wish it didn’t happen, but it did.”
As far as the present is concerned, Williams -- who was suspended for a year by the NFL in 2012 for his role in the 'Bountygate' scandal with the New Orleans Saints -- has yet to respond. But Beckham's comments add another layer of intrigue beyond your standard "former coach faces his former team" storyline.
Mano a mono
As was the case a year ago when the Browns and Jets met in a Week 3 Thursday Night Football matchup, one of the most nationally relevant storylines this season figured to be the rematch between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, who were selected first and third, respectively, in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Those plans, however, came to a crashing halt on Thursday when Jets head coach Adam Gase revealed that Darnold would miss Monday night's matchup due to a case of mono. As a result, Trevor Siemian will start for the Jets after having not appeared in a regular-season contest since the 2017 campaign.
After news of Darnold's illness was made public, the Browns climbed from a 3-point favorite to a 7-point favorite, according to oddsmakers. Furthermore, the Jets will be without wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who has been ruled out for the season with a neck injury, and could be without linebacker C.J. Mosley, who is currently battling a groin injury.
Suffice to say, the Jets will hardly be at full strength when they take the field on Monday. And as a result, the Browns will have little excuses left should they leave East Rutherford without their first win of the 2019 season.
What's on the line?
If the Browns are going to end their 16-year preseason drought, a win vs. the Jets will be essential.
While we may only be two weeks into the season, Cleveland's loss to the Titans left it with little room for error in a competitive AFC. What's more is that with the Los Angeles Rams coming to town next week and a trip to face the Baltimore Ravens after that, there aren't many opportunities left for the Browns to pick up an easy win in the immediate future.
While there may be no such thing as a truly "easy win" in the NFL, facing this beaten-down Jets team might be the closest thing. After last week, the message coming out of Berea was that the loss to the Titans was just one game.
Monday night will give the Browns a chance to prove that.
Under the bright lights of Monday Night Football and in the shadow of New York (and facing an opponent hardly at full strength), the Browns come show why they were so highly touted entering the 2019 season
Final score: Browns 35, Jets 10