This week’s Thursday night matchup features two teams that haven’t had this much early season optimism in quite some time. The Jets think they could finally have their franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold, and while the Browns believe their franchise guy is Baker Mayfield, he’s currently behind Tyrod Taylor. Even without Mayfield starting, the Browns improvements around the roster have them in great shape to be highly competitive this season. This game should be an interesting test for both teams as they’re coming off disappointing losses on top of the short week.
Some were already trying to fit Darnold for a gold jacket after his week one performance. This past week showed that while there’s a lot of positive in his game, the Lions defense might just be that bad. Darnold’s week two blemishes could be due to his pass protection struggling, but things don’t get easier Thursday. The Browns have the ability to apply consistent pressure with their defensive front, and have slowed down both Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees the past two weeks. Even while the volume could be there, Darnold is probably worth avoiding in fantasy formats.
One Jet who has established himself as a reliable fantasy option is Quincy Enunwa. After missing all of last year, Enunwa was sort of a forgotten man, but he has established himself as Darnold’s favorite target. The Browns have let up some big games to opposing wideouts, and with projected volume Enunwa is a solid WR2 in all leagues. Robby Anderson was projected to be the Jets leading receiver entering the year, but right now he might be too big play dependent to use in fantasy leagues. The Jets passing attack has mainly consisted of shorter throws, which doesn’t ideal for his skills. Terrelle Pryor is worth monitoring in this one as he did have an expanded role this past week.
At running back, the Jets have had a pretty even timeshare between Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell so far. Crowell has mainly played on early downs, while Powell brings more of a receiver. The potential is there for Powell to benefit from the Browns pass rush, as it could lead to more checkdowns his way. He’s worth looking at as a flex play in ppr formats.
While the 0-1-1 record doesn’t show it, Taylor has had the Browns in position to win both games. Now he has a home matchup against a defense he’s familiar with from his time in the AFC East. Over the past few years, Taylor at home has been more productive and against a Jets defense with a suspect pass rush, he’s in play for fantasy purposes as a streaming option. Carlos Hyde has been the lead back so far and once again could see 20 or so touches. The Jets defense the first two weeks has been stingy against the run, so Hyde’s fantasy value would be volume driven. Oddly, the Browns haven’t gotten Duke Johnson involved much so far despite signing him to a contract extension. An able runner between the tackles and a mismatch out wide, there should be more of an effort to get him the ball.
Jarvis Landry has continued to run routes primarily in the slot, but has seen his average depth of target rise in Cleveland. The Jets have struggled in slot coverage early on so Landry could be in for a productive night. Rashard Higgins saw an increase in targets and snaps with Josh Gordon out, and it’s worth monitoring his usage in this game. The real winner of Gordon being traded could be rookie Antonio Callaway. While the rookie had an off-field history in college, there’s no denying that the talent is there. He flashed some of it in preseason, and most recently last Sunday hauling in the touchdown to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Callaway is worth a speculative add in all fantasy leagues where available. While the skills are there, David Njoku hasn’t done much through the first few weeks. The Jets haven’t played a team with a proven pass catching tight end, but until proven otherwise Njoku’s a boom-or-bust fantasy option.
While I think this game should be pretty close, the Browns being at home with a fired up crowd and a strong pass rush could end up being the difference. My predictions is Jets 16 Browns (-3.5) 21.