The stakes continue to stay high for the Browns as they take the field for Thursday Night Football against the Jets. With a win, they could clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2020 and could do so in front of their home crowd.
"Man, it's going to be (like) a playoff game," CB Greg Newsome II said. "They're going to show us exactly what the playoff atmosphere is going to be like out here in Cleveland. So, we're definitely super excited to have the opportunity to clinch at home."
Let's look at three keys to Thursday's game.
Create a balance in the run and pass game
With QB Joe Flacco at the helm of the Browns offense, they have excelled in the passing game in the last four games. Flacco has thrown for over 300 yards in three consecutive games and has spread the ball around to at least eight pass catchers in each game. Opposing defenses have to account for the deep ball and a number of players who could be potential targets in the pass game.
Yet, Thursday's matchup presents a challenge for Flacco and the passing game, as the Jets pass defense is towards the top in the league. They are second in the league in total passing yards allowed this season with 2,785. They also allow an average of six yards per attempt – third in the league – and have given up just 16 passing touchdowns – second in the league.
While Flacco brings his experience to the table in handling strong defenses, the Browns could look to use both their run and pass game in a more balanced fashion if the Jets limit their success in the passing game.
Apply pressure to QB Trevor Siemian
With Jets QB Zach Wilson still in concussion protocol and not cleared for Thursday's game, QB Trevor Siemian will start for the second-straight game. In his first game against the Commanders in Week 16, Siemian completed 27 of 49 passes for 217 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Siemian has played in three games this season with the Jets, all in the month of December. He has completed 46 of 88 passes for 393 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. And yet, that's not his whole story.
Siemian has been around the league since 2015 in a variety of roles. He was with the Broncos for three seasons from 2015-17, then served as a backup to Kirk Cousins with the Vikings in 2018. He then signed with the Jets for the 2019 season and spent time on the Titans practice squad in 2020. He signed with the Saints in 2021, and with the Bears in 2022. Siemian then was signed to the Jets practice squad in September and signed to the active roster in November of this season. He took the field for the first time this season in Week 15.
He's played in 38 games over the course of his career, as he's completed 667 of 1,143 passes for 7,420 total yards and 43 touchdowns.
"Trevor Siemian's a guy that I know," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "Trevor is a guy that has played and won in this league."
The Browns defense has done well in applying pressure to quarterbacks and sacking the quarterback. They have 44 total sacks this season, which is tied for ninth in the league with the Buccaneers and Titans. DE Myles Garrett leads the team with 13 total sacks, followed by DE Za'Darius Smith with 5.5. They also have a total of 99 quarterback hits, with Garrett leading the team with 26 and Smith with 20. Their defensive line can look to apply pressure to Siemian on Thursday night to help limit their offensive success.
Limit WR Garrett Wilson and RB Breece Hall
The Browns defense has been a dominant force at home all season long, playing a key role to their success at Cleveland Browns Stadium. And they'll need to bring that level of dominance again on Thursday against the Jets, as they have talented players in the run and pass game that will present challenges at all levels of their defense.
"I would probably say just their running backs, Breece Hall and their receiver, Garrett Wilson," Newsome said. "Garrett Wilson is an All-Pro receiver, very elite receiver. Breece Hall is a great running back. So, they do provide some challenges there."
In the Jets' Week 16 matchup against the Commanders, Hall finished the game with a season-high 191 total yards – 85 rushing yards and 96 receiving yards – and two touchdowns. Hall also leads the Jets in total rushing yards this season with 732 and four touchdowns.
The Jets also have a threat in the pass game with WR Garrett Wilson. Against the Commanders with Siemian at the helm of the offense, Wilson finished the game with nine receptions for 76 yards, averaging 8.4 yards per catch. Wilson has also had some big games throughout the season, such as against Houston when he finished the game with 108 receiving yards on nine receptions. Leads the team in total reception yards with 958 and three touchdowns.
"I think Garrett Wilson's as good as there is in the NFL, really," Stefanski said. "He's a special player."