Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
Each week, our writers will take a look at the fantasy-relevant things to watch for in every upcoming game. Today, it’s the Thursday night Week 3 matchup between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns.
Another primetime game for the New York Jets to start off the season. This is the team’s third game in an eleven-day span, and quarterback Sam Darnold has a tough – yes, tough – road matchup against the Cleveland Browns. If the Browns didn’t suffer from a case of the yips from (now former) kicker Zane Gonzalez, the team would have had a real chance at being 2-0. Their offense puts up points, and the defense has a formidable unit that can get to the QB. The Jets offensive line has their work cut out for them having to face the likes of DE Myles Garrett, DT Larry Ogunjobi (sack leader with 3), and CB Terrance Mitchell, who leads the team in tackles with 11.
Another productive week for Enunwa?
The answer is yes. WR Quincy Enunwa has played himself into the role of being Darnold’s main target. In the loss vs Miami, Enunwa reeled in 7 receptions on 11 targets for 92 yards, with a fumble which he immediately recovered. You can look for ‘Q’ to be involved plenty as a reliable option, especially on third downs. Disclaimer: I know we [all] notoriously dislike Thursday Night Football for fantasy, but in PPR you should/can safely consider Enunwa as a flex-play.
WR Robby Anderson is having a disappointing start to the season given his hype entering; only 4 receptions on 6 targets for 68 yards and a score. Darnold will need to get him involved more, but he may not have the easiest matchup if he is being guarded by Mitchell or fellow CB Denzel Ward. The same goes for WR Terrelle Pryor Sr., who did have a solid game against the Dolphins.
How about Crow’ and Powell?
RB’s Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell were both ineffective Week 2. Despite a Powell score, he wasn’t featured as often as he should have been, especially in a game-script of playing from behind, he is a nice option to move the chains in the pass-catching role. Crowell was a non-factor, though he may be in a good spot to have a sneaky, productive game in a “revenge” effort versus his former team.
From a fantasy standpoint, I would still side with Powell, but as I mentioned, you may want to throw a dart at Crowell in your flex and hope he turns up the jets (no pun) against a Browns team he called home to from 2014-2017.
So two weeks are in the books and the Browns still don’t have a win. A heartbreaking almost-upset against the Saints ends with a missed kick for the loss and Cleveland heads home for a short week before getting ready against the New York Jets led by rookie QB Sam Darnold. While the Browns are coming off a near win against a very highly ranked team, the Jets have just lost to a division rival at home. What can we expect from these… well, what’s the opposite of juggernaut teams?
Will the Browns see their first win?
I think so. While the Jets’ defense had an unreal performance against Detroit in week 1, they lost to an underwhelming Miami Dolphins that had lackluster offensive yardage totals in just about every measure. Meanwhile, the Browns put up a very strong defensive performance against Drew Brees of all people, shutting the Saints down for most of the game and holding phenom Alvin Kamara to fewer than 100 yards- no easy feat. While their offense is mostly boring and occasionally erratic, they do have a great number of playmakers. Unless the Jets learn Tyrod’ audibles, I doubt they’ll show up against the Browns as well. The one mitigating factor is that the Browns may simply give up a ton of sacks. Their O-Line was frequently beat by 3-man rushes.
What can be expected in from Tyrod?
This game has some big implications for how the rest of the season will go. In week 1 we had stormy weather that could be blamed for the lack of passing yardage compared to the offensive weapons. In week 2 we saw some designed runs for QB Tyrod Taylor, albeit fewer than were truly helpful and occurring later in the game than is ideal. This was combined with only 30 passing attempts, and can largely be blamed on an intention by coaching staff to limit Brees’ time with the ball. It matters that the conservative game plan lead to a loss because it shows Hue Jackson that he needs to be much more aggressive to pull off a win, especially following turnovers. If that’s the case then the Browns will open up the offense and we will start to see Tyrod’s ceiling more than his floor. For what it’s worth, I do expect the Browns to try to be more aggressive but I would leave Tyrod on the bench for now. After last week I need to see it before I believe it.
So will Landry be more like week 1 or week 2?
WR Jarvis Landry is a must-start this week. He is going against Buster Skrine from the Jets who is not a great slot corner. I’m calling a high number of targets for Landry this week with a great chance at a TD. However, I would be remiss if I left out WRs Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway. Higgins seems to be the #2 when referring to target share but Callaway seems to have landed in the Josh Gordon role and out-snapped Higgins by a good margin. Callaway also had a great touchdown against the Saints on a long bomb. It is always a good thing to come up with the big play for your team and not only was it a great throw from Taylor but if you refer back to the gif of it you can see that Callaway tracks the ball while maintaining good speed and catches it. There is no drop in concentration.
So I expect maybe 3 TD’s at the high end for the Browns- one to Landry, one to Callaway, and one rushing TD whether that is for Taylor himself or for RB Carlos Hyde. If you need a dart throw at WR, Higgins is probably available in your league.
Hyde has the backfield locked down, what’s he going to get up to?
The Jets gave up a rushing TD to the Dolphins last week and with as big of a commitment as the Browns have shown to Hyde, I expect him to once again dominate carries. As stated, I expect that either he or Tyrod will probably have a rushing TD, but I doubt both of them do. If I have Hyde, which I do in at least one league, I’m playing him as an RB3/FLEX with RB2 upside purely for volume. Lord knows their run-blocking has not been great thus far. RB Duke Johnson, Jr, sadly, can probably be dropped in all formats until further notice. While I think he makes a great pass-catcher I just do not see the volume of use I want from a 3rd down back.
What’s going on at TE?
As an owner in my main league of TE David Njoku, I’m worried he may deliver another lackluster performance. While he did see 7 targets in each of the first two games he not making much of them. However, because the TE position across the league is mostly hit-or-miss anyway, roll with Njoku anyway. If you follow the snaps and targets you put yourself in the best position to get points even if it is not a guarantee. The best news for Njoku, after all, is that the Browns aren’t using TE Seth DeValve in his place, either. Njoku has just as much chance of a fantasy-relevant day as SF’s George Kittle or Indy’s Ebron/Doyle.
Any final thoughts?
The Detroit Lions opened with a pick-six on QB Sam Darnold and the ‘Phins had 2. I think the Browns DS/T makes a great play and could potentially be worth starting weekly unless you get an obvious great matchup elsewhere (like against AZ). After they held the Saints in check, they showed how well they are fulfilling their promise (unlike the offense) so stream with confidence.