Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM

MNF - Browns at Jets

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Browns (-6.5/45) at Jets, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

This went from Monday night must-see to potential dud on Thursday morning with the announcement that Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had contracted mononucleosis and would be out of the lineup for the next few weeks. Trevor Siemian will start instead as the Jets look to avoid an 0-2 start despite opening the season at home.

The Adam Gase era isn’t off to a great start, crashing just before the fourth quarter of Week 1’s 17-16 loss to the Bills rolled around. Linebacker CJ Mosley looked tremendous before suffering a groin injury that forced him out with New York leading 16-3. The Bills marched down the field twice in succession, immediately taking advantage of his absence.

Between Darnold’s exit and the uncertainty regarding Mosley’s availability for this one, it’s been an uncomfortable few days for the Jets, who have ruled out their linebacker for this date with the Browns. Defensive end Quinnen Williams, the No. 3 overall pick in April’s draft, won’t play either due to a foot injury.



Running back Le’Veon Bell is nursing a shoulder injury but should play, while left tackle Kelvin Beachum (ankle) and newly acquired receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) will probably be game-time decisions. Thomas was acquired in part because Quincy Enunwa was played on IR due to a neck injury, removing one of Jets’ most explosive offensive players from the equation. When you add in all the guys sitting out due to suspension, Gase and new coordinator Gregg Williams will have to try and hang with a very motivated Cleveland team with a host of backups set to play major roles.

Bookmakers opened with the Browns as 2.5-point favorites on the heels of an embarrassing Week 1 home loss against the Titans. The number was hanging tight at 6.5 points with a few full 7-point spreads popping up on a few online sportsbooks after the Sunday night game closed. Underdogs went 8-6 against the number on Sunday following Tampa’s upset win in Carolina on Thursday. In all, six Week 2 ‘dogs have won outright.

The Browns were blown out in their home opener due to defensive breakdowns that compounded the sloppiest game of Baker Mayfield’s short career. He was picked off three times for the third time in his 15 appearances as a pro but he threw for 376 and 397 yards in those previous two games and didn’t look as loose with the football as he did against Tennessee. It was his first three-pick game at home and sapped the excitement out of the beginning of the Odell Beckham, Jr. era in addition to spoiling Freddie Kitchens’ debut as head coach.

Running back Le’Veon Bell is nursing a shoulder injury but should play, while left tackle Kelvin Beachum (ankle) and newly acquired receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) will probably be game-time decisions. Thomas was acquired in part because Quincy Enunwa was played on IR due to a neck injury, removing one of Jets’ most explosive offensive players from the equation. When you add in all the guys sitting out due to suspension, Gase and new coordinator Gregg Williams will have to try and hang with a very motivated Cleveland team with a host of backups set to play major roles.

Bookmakers opened with the Browns as 2.5-point favorites on the heels of an embarrassing Week 1 home loss against the Titans. The number was hanging tight at 6.5 points with a few full 7-point spreads popping up on a few online sportsbooks after the Sunday night game closed. Underdogs went 8-6 against the number on Sunday following Tampa’s upset win in Carolina on Thursday. In all, six Week 2 ‘dogs have won outright.

The Browns were blown out in their home opener due to defensive breakdowns that compounded the sloppiest game of Baker Mayfield’s short career. He was picked off three times for the third time in his 15 appearances as a pro but he threw for 376 and 397 yards in those previous two games and didn’t look as loose with the football as he did against Tennessee. It was his first three-pick game at home and sapped the excitement out of the beginning of the Odell Beckham, Jr. era in addition to spoiling Freddie Kitchens’ debut as head coach.

Worse yet, the Browns were whistled for an incredible 18 penalties for 182 yards, making it their sloppiest game in 68 years. If they can’t find some discipline here, it won’t matter that the Jets won’t have Darnold to rely on. If Cleveland gives New York’s team of backups that type of help at MetLife Stadium, we’ll be getting another upset to add to the week’s collection. On that end, the Jets are paying out +240 for the outright win at Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Trevor Siemian will be making his first start since 2017 after nearly two full seasons of inconsistency ended after a December shoulder injury. He was with the Vikings last season but never got in a game and chose the Jets during free agency in part because Gase was so adamant about having him in place as the backup. Although the Jets will likely make some changes to what they would run under Darnold, expect to see a similar system as Siemian has stated he’s comfortable and eager to provide some continuity.

On the Browns’ end, Kitchens and Mayfield have an opportunity to respond to adversity in style if they can have some strong counters in place for when Williams comes with the house. They won’t have top guard Joel Bitonio due to an abdominal injury, so the offensive line isn’t going to be at 100 percent but has enough pieces to overcome the absence of one of the unit’s strongest links on the road. Versatile backup tackle Kendall Lamm is out with a knee injury.

Beckham, Jr. returns to MetLife Stadium as a visitor for the first time and made a pre-game impact by calling out Williams' reputation for dirty tricks as a defensive coordinator. If nothing else, he'll take some of the pressure off Mayfield while looking to make life easier for him on the field when the actual game unfolds.

Kitchens didn't hire Williams after beating him out for the head coaching gig both put their names into the ring for, so this game will be personal between these coaching staffs, which always adds a level of spice. Williams was ultimately hired by Gase and the Jets and has seen Mayfield’s bad habits up close and should have a game plan in place designed to try and confuse him and keep the mistakes coming.

While that would be easier to accomplish with Mosley in the middle calling the plays out and the explosive Williams serving as a disruptive force up front, he’s unable to count on either. Safety Jamal Adams will be the Jets’ most talented defensive player and should be at the center of whatever Williams has planned after bouncing back from hip and back soreness that kept him out of practice some this week.

Young LB Neville Hewitt will start in Mosley’s place and rookie fifth-round pick Blake Cashman should see extended time, so the Browns should be able to challenge them with a run game featuring Nick Chubb, who often gets overlooked due to Mayfield and his receivers. Tight end David Njoku scored the Browns’ only touchdown through the air and will also be able to punish the Browns if New York is too intent on keeping from Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry from getting going. The Jets’ issues at cornerback were a major theme throughout training camp as a source of frustration for Williams, who couldn’t blitz as often as he wants to due to their inability to hold up in the back.

Only two weeks in, injuries are already the largest variable in this Monday nighter since Cleveland got unexpected news that corner Demarious Randall will have to sit this one out with a concussion. Linebacker Adarius Taylor is also out for a few weeks and DT Chris Smith may not play despite returning to practice following the tragic death of his girlfriend in an auto accident this past week.

Cleveland surrendered 43 points last week, but the defense actually wasn’t the issue. They held the Titans to just 13 offensive points until just a couple minutes remained in the third quarter and Derrick Henry broke loose for a 75-yard reception off a screen on a busted coverage. Tennessee added three fourth-quarter touchdowns, but once came on a pick-six and the other two came after the Titans took over in Browns territory.

Despite Darnold being ruled out, the total has barely budged. Some books opened at 46 and trimmed it to 45. Westgate hasn’t moved the number at all. Weather should be extremely pleasant with light breeze and temperatures in the low-70’s expected.

Last season’s game, which ended up becoming a rookie summit meeting between Mayfield and Darnold once the top pick entered after Tyrod Taylor suffered a concussion, saw the Browns win 21-17. Darnold was picked off on his last two drives and RB Carlos Hyde, now with Houston, helped Cleveland rally with a pair of second-half scoring runs. The Jets had won five straight games in the series prior to the loss. The Browns last beat the Jets in East Rutherford in 2007.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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