11/11/2010 10:30 AM ET
With edge, Jets look to batter Browns
Rex Ryan, Jets may have leg up over Cleveland
By Michael Salfino / SNY.tv
On Sunday, Rex Ryan will face his twin brother, Rob, who serves as the Browns' defensive coordinator. (AP)

The Jets have the league's best record, you have to give them that. Rex Ryan said that's what he wanted and that's what he's got. But it's been a long, strange trip in getting there, one that continues Sunday in Cleveland against Ryan's predecessor with the Jets, Eric Mangini.

Is New York lucky to be 6-2? Last week was a miracle, but when teams like the Peyton Manning-led Colts win a game like that, no one looks to discredit it. Bottom line, the Lions opened the door and the Jets ran through, which is what good teams do. The most impressive way to win in the National Football League is to win unimpressively.

But there were a bunch of things not to like. Brian Schottenheimer's play calling was bad most of the day and has been bad really since Santonio Holmes has made his regular season debut. Schottenheimer has to figure out how to get Mark Sanchez's first read open in the intermediate area of the field. The Jets are a four-yard and 40-yard passing offense now, which ensures wild inconsistency.

What happened to rookie first-round cornerback Kyle Wilson? Drew Coleman makes Donald Dykes look like Mike Haynes. How bad can Wilson be? Maybe the Jets have to play double on the slot guys and man up on the outside with Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis, who is back like last year after ripping out Calvin Johnson's Megatron heart and stomping on it for nearly four hours right in Johnson's backyard.

But the Lions converted some big third downs -- long ones, too. On third down and between 11-15 yards to convert, the Jets have allowed the chains to move on seven of 14 passes, versus the league average of 22.9 percent. While the aforementioned stat is random in nature, it's unquestionably annoying when the opponent moves the chains on third and long.

When attacking conventionally, the Jets' pass rush has been ineffective. Calvin Pace hasn't been a factor, Jason Taylor has disappeared and Vernon Gholston hasn't replicated the success enjoyed at Ohio State.

So is this really a 12-win team? The offensive line and defensive back seven are elite and coached very well. Sanchez can be effective if allowed to get some volume in his game; he's just not efficient enough to succeed in 20 or 25 attempts most weeks. Of course, he plays a part in that, too, by failing to keep drives alive. If the Jets would throw more on first down, third down wouldn't be a big problem.

In the first quarters of games, the Jets throw 70 percent of the time on first-and-10 plays, which is extreme to the point of being a joke. It's worse to the other extreme at the start of the second half, when they run the ball 75 percent of time.

Sanchez is converting 41 percent of third downs between 6-10 yards, averaging 8.68 yards per attempt on those plays. These are top-five stats in both categories. And he averages over seven yards when throwing on first down, but he needs more opportunities.

This week, the stat setup for Sanchez is superb. The Browns are weak defensively -- 19th in red-zone possessions allowed, 22nd in third-down rate allowed, 25th in yards allowed per pass, 24th in sack percentage, 27th in touchdown passes per game. Based on the numbers, it's probable that Sanchez and Braylon Edwards, facing his former team, will have big days.

To stand a chance, the Browns will need a strong performance from running back Peyton Hillis, who is coming off a 184-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Patriots. But don't expect a repeat performance against the Jets, who excel at stopping the run. If Hillis can't run, Plan B is rookie quarterback Colt McCoy against the Jets' blitzing. As good as they were last week, it's hard to see the Browns generating enough offense to top Rex Ryan and company.

Prediction time: The Jets need to assert some superiority and play for four quarters, which Sanchez implored the team to do after last week's game. The coaches -- especially Schottenheimer -- have to coach for four quarters, too. The Browns aren't this bad, but the Jets match up very well against them.

Michael Salfino writes for the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! and is a regular contributor to SNY.tv.
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