History is never too far away when the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets cross paths. The two featured on the first-ever Monday Night Football telecast in 1970 and last year the Browns beat the Jets in Week 3 to end a 19-game losing streak, as Baker Mayfield announced his arrival in the NFL.
The second-year quarterback will be hoping for a repeat of his exploits from last season when the Browns take on the Jets in New Jersey Monday night. Cleveland imploded spectacularly under the weight of expectations in Week 1, suffering a 43-13 shellacking on home turf against Tennessee.
The Titans arrived in Ohio intent on puncturing the bubble of expectations that had surrounded the Browns throughout the offseason, and followed through on those plans.
Mayfield finished 25-of-38 for 285 passing yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted three times and was sacked on five occasions.
The quarterback left the stadium on Sunday with his throwing hand wrapped. However, he has declared himself fit for Monday night, insisting the injury was simply a bruise.
The Browns’ egos will likely be bruised too. Cleveland recruited a new arsenal of weapons in the offseason, most notably star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and began the season as the bookmakers’ favorite to win a first divisional title since 1989.
Defeat in Week 1, however, has significantly tempered expectations and the usual concerns about the Browns swiftly resurfaced.
Luckily for Cleveland, the Jets were also left deflated in Week 1, relinquishing a 16-0 lead to lose 17-16 at home to the Buffalo Bills.
If Mayfield struggled, fellow second-year quarterback Sam Darnold had a difficult week of his own. The Jets signal caller completed 28 of 41 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown, but was sacked four times.
Star signing Le’Veon Bell, meanwhile, enjoyed a relatively positive debut with 60 rushing yards over 17 carries and one receiving touchdown.
Both the Browns and the Jets were hampered by struggling offensive lines in Week 1, meaning Mayfield’s ability to make throws downfield could prove decisive on Monday night.
Going 0-2 to open the campaign would be a major blow to either season, but there’s a crumb of comfort to be found in the history books.
Over the last two years, three teams—the New Orleans Saints in 2017 and the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans in 2018—reached the playoffs despite losing their first two games of the season.