The Browns will play their final regular-season home game Thursday night under the lights at Cleveland Browns Stadium. They will take on the Jets, who are 1-4 in prime-time games this season. This will be the second prime-time game for the Browns, who lost their Monday Night Football matchup against the Steelers in Week 2.
Here are three questions the Browns must answer on Sunday.
Should the offense run more on Thursday?
The Browns offense will face off against a Jets defense that is 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.
Meanwhile, the Jets run defense has been prone to giving up yards this season. They are ranked 23rd in rushing yards allowed with 1,893 and have given up 13 rushing touchdowns this season, which is 14th in the league.
HC Kevin Stefanski mentioned heading into Week 16 how the Browns have been passing more due to the team going up against good defensive teams that have been stopping the run well this season. In this case, the Browns will play a team that is better at preventing catches than they are at stopping the run. Each week the Browns want to try different ways to be effective and score the ball. They have been willing to try different formations to help with the offense's success.
"For us, it's always, just trying to find different ways to score," Stefanski said. "I mean, as you know, you get down there, it's hard. The field dimensions change. It's hard to throw it in. It becomes hard to run it in because you can't block everybody. So I think our coaches do an outstanding job of trying to find little wrinkles or nuance to things and to give your guys a chance. And we're very fortunate in the players that we have down there."
How will the special teams look on Thursday?
K Dustin Hopkins will not play Thursday due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the second quarter against the Texans. Hopkins was four points away from tying Jim Brown for the Browns' all-time points leader.
With Hopkins a no-go for Thursday, the Browns signed K Riley Patterson was signed to the practice squad on Dec. 25. Patterson has made 58 of 66 field goal attempts and 87 of 90 PATs.
"Yeah, came in, did a nice job in his workout, obviously has production in this league this season," Stefanski said. "So, a guy we're comfortable with."
Hopkins is not the only injury the Browns special teams are facing. P Corey Bojorquez did not practice Monday or Tuesday due to dealing with a quad injury and is doubtful heading into Thursday night. Stefanski confirmed Bojorquez got injured after he had to kick the ball off Sunday. He replaced Hopkins's kickoff duties in the second half. The Browns signed P Matt Haack, who will replace Bojorquez if he can't go.
Will the Browns defense once again dominate at home?
At home this season, the Browns defense has been dominant, as they have the best home defense in the league, allowing only 105 points and 28.2 percent of third-down attempts. Their defense has also recorded 30 sacks at home this season, which is tied for the highest in the league.
In eight games this season, the Browns defense has held teams to an average of 197.9 total yards, which is the best in the league.
They will play a Jets offense that has been struggling this season. They have recorded the lowest total net yards in the league this season, with only 3,952 yards. They are 31st in passing with 2,597 net yards and 27th in rushing with 1,355 net yards.
The Jets have only been shut out once this season, which was by the Dolphins in Week 15, but they have scored under 11 points six times this season. Meanwhile, the Browns defense has shut out only the Cardinals this season. In Week 1, the Browns defense held the Bengals to three points. Then in Week 3, the Titans also only scored three points at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Browns have an opportunity to have another dominant performance in front of their fans for the last time this year.
"Super important," CB Greg Newsome II said. "The fans know. They'll be there loud for us, but they're our twelfth man out there. I say it all the time. We have the best fans in the world. So going out there with the energy they bring and what they provide to the opposing offense of them having to go on silent count every third down and just making some mistakes that really they're causing out there as much as they don't know. They're causing a lot of those extra timeouts they got to use to get in the right stuff. So, they provide a big boost for us."