Which team will fall to the unfortunate record of 0-2?
You could call this "Monday Night Football" matchup between the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets a rather large game for both as neither squad wants to start out 0-2. These two played in the very first MNF game back in 1970, which is probably why this matchup was put on the schedule. New York has been on MNF 13 times since 2010, including last season's 48-17 win over the Lions in Week 1. It's been a lot longer for Cleveland, which has made one appearance since 2010 (a 33-27 loss to the Ravens in 2015).
The Browns were the most hyped team this offseason, and they played like they were owed a victory in Week 1. Cleveland lost 43-13 at home to the Titans as Baker Mayfield was picked off three times to go along with 18 penalties for a whopping 182 yards. Freddie Kitchens has his work cut out for him early, because an 0-2 start might lead to some early grumbling. Already, we saw Jarvis Landry get annoyed after the game due to questions about the team's lack of preseason work.
It's been quite the week for the Jets, who blew a 16-0 lead to the Bills at home in Week 1. Unfortunately, the hits keep piling up. Injuries to C.J. Mosley and Quinnen Williams in the opener contributed to their fourth-quarter collapse, but the biggest blow came earlier this week when Sam Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis. With Darnold out indefinitely, Trevor Siemian will take over at quarterback. The team also will have a new kicker on Monday night. Kaare Vedvik missed a field goal and a PAT in the loss to Buffalo so he was cut and will be replaced by Sam Ficken.
Cleveland at New York
Kickoff: Monday, Sept 16 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Browns -6
Three Things to Watch
The biggest intangible for both of these teams is the mindset entering this game. Both squads lost in difficult fashion, so whichever team can regroup more quickly is going to have the edge here. It's an early test for Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, who hasn't had to deal with adversity at this level before. New York also can't afford to lose two straight at home, so expect a real sense of urgency on both sidelines. We'll see if the Jets' tumultuous week will get in their heads or will they just get out there and play.
2. Offseason acquisitions
Both of these teams added huge pieces in the offseason, and the new pieces had an impact in their team's first games. Le'Veon Bell had the benefit of a full year off from football, and he looked fresh last week, gaining 60 rushing yards on 17 carries to go along with six receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown. Bell is the type of versatile back that people have to account for in a lot of ways. Tennessee racked up 123 rushing yards last week against Cleveland and was able to use Derrick Henry to open things up for Marcus Mariota. He's going to need to get the ball a ton with a lesser talented QB under center.
On the other side, it's Odell Beckham Jr., who was the jewel of the Browns offseason. The former Giant had seven receptions for 71 yards and could have an absolute field day against the Jets' mediocre secondary. In theory, Beckham and Jarvis Landry were supposed to stress the opponent's corners and safeties. New York gave up 254 yards through the air to a poor Bills passing attack. Veteran John Brown had 123 yards receiving and a touchdown on 10 targets. Browns fans should be worried if Baker Mayfield can't get on track in this game, because there will be plenty of open receivers.
3. Not so special teams?
I mentioned the Jets special teams issues above, but in a game like this, both sides need to worry about their kicker. New York signed Sam Ficken on Tuesday to replace Kaare Vedvik. Ficken kicked for four games for the Rams over two years making 14-of-15 extra points and 3-of-6 field goals with his longest being from 34 yards. Good kickers are apparently really hard to find. Cleveland had its own kicking issues but to a lesser extent, with rookie Austin Seibert missing one of his two extra points. The Browns also have a rookie punter in Jamie Gillan, who had a solid debut last week. With all this youth, you don't want a big mistake to come from this area of the game.
I spent a lot of the offseason saying that people needed to calm down on the Browns hype. Yes, they've got a lot of the pieces in place to win their division and/or make the playoffs, but you can't just all of a sudden develop a winning culture. It comes over weeks, months and years. They do have the talent edge in this one, though. I also said this offseason that I thought the Jets would make the playoffs, but I figured their offense would be a bit more explosive. Trevor Siemian isn't Sam Darnold so New York is going to have to play turnover-free and go ball control on offense. Unfortunately, his Jets probably fall to 0-2 as Mayfield cuts down on the interceptions and takes better care of the ball. Le'Veon Bell will score, but it won't be enough.
Prediction: Browns 27, Jets 13
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.