After an incredible performance by QB Joe Flacco and WR Amari Cooper against the Texans in Week 16, the Browns offense will look to continue making strides when they take on the Jets on Thursday.
Since getting his first start in Week 13, no quarterback has thrown for more yards or more touchdowns than Flacco, per Pro Football Focus. In the four games, the 38-year-old has thrown for 1,321 yards and ten touchdowns. He found a great connection with Cooper last Sunday, as Flacco helped him break the record for most receiving yards by a Browns player in a game. Cooper finished the game with 11 catches for 265 yards and two touchdowns.
This is easily the best stretch the Browns offense has gone through this season. The offense only had nine passing touchdowns before Flacco joined and got his first start. They also have never had a game with 300 passing yards or more. Flacco now has three games with over 300 yards passing games.
"I think there are guys that, with that amount of turns and with that amount of years in different systems, can come in and operate pretty quickly," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "Now, you got to be very intelligent, and you got to work like crazy to do it. And I think Joe's done both those things, but I think there's enough similarity to the things that we're doing that he's done in the past, and I think he could lean into that experience."
This week, the Browns offense will go up against the best pass defense they have faced since the Ravens. The Jets are ranked second in pass yards allowed with 2,785 and second in passing touchdowns allowed with 16. They are also third in the league with six yards per catch.
The Jets' starting defensive backs comprise CB Sauce Gardner, S Jordan Whitehead, S Ashtyn Davis, S Tony Adams and CB D.J. Reed. Gardner and Whitehead are the stars of the unit and have been playing great football this season.
Gardner doesn't have an interception this season because teams do not throw the ball to his side. According to Pro Football Focus, Gardner has only been targeted 44 times. To put it in perspective, all three of the Browns' top corners have been targeted over 60 times this year. Gardner has nine pass deflections and has the third-best cornerback-rated grade on PFF with 85.0.
WR Amari Cooper recorded 11 receptions for a career-high 265 yards with two touchdowns. His 265 receiving yards are a Browns single-game record and the most by any NFL player this season. He has four career 200-yard receiving games.
His backfield mate, Whitehead, is all over the field making plays wherever he can. This season, Whitehead has four interceptions, 66 tackles and nine pass deflections.
Flacco, who was on the Jets last season, shouldn't be phased by the talent they have as he went against this defense last season and knows what they like to do.
"You kind of have that in the back of your mind. Does it help? Does it hurt? They're probably thinking it helps them," Flacco said. "Maybe I'm thinking it helps me. Who knows? You're running a slightly different offense. They're a whole other year evolved into what they really feel like they do well. So, I think at the end of the day, once you kind of cross over the white on game day, that's really what matters. So, all that kind of other stuff goes aside."
Flacco doesn't only have to worry about the Jets defensive backs because their front seven is just as talented. The Jets have 40 sacks this season and 668 tackles.
Their captain is LB C.J. Mosley, who has 137 total tackles this season – the eighth best in the league. They also have LB Quincy Williams who has 123 tackles, a forced fumble, an interception and two sacks this season. Their front four is also strong, with DT Quinnen Williams anchoring the middle, and has 3.5 sacks and 29 tackles this season.
"We have locked in with this quick turnaround," TE David Njoku said. "Very good defense. They are a powerhouse defense. Their front four is very talented. We have our hands full."