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W2W4: Browns vs. Jets

12/20/2013

Rex Ryan will coach his 40th -- and possibly last -- regular-season game Sunday at the Meadowlands.

There have been many indelible memories, good and bad: Three victories over the New England Patriots. The playoff clincher over the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009. The dramatic comeback against the Houston Texans in '10. The Sal Alosi game. The emotional 9/11 opener against the Dallas Cowboys in '11. Victor Cruz's 99-yard touchdown. The Butt Fumble. If you want to include a preseason moment, it has to be the Snoopy Bowl debacle with Mark Sanchez's shoulder injury.

Chances are, Sunday's home finale against the Cleveland Browns won't make the list. It's a meaningless game for two teams that are a combined 1-9 since Week 10. Incentive? The Jets want to win their final two games, avoiding a second consecutive losing season. Could a strong finish save Ryan's job? It's possible, although decisions of this magnitude usually aren't based on a game or two.

"We definitely want to win this for him," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said of Ryan.

Kickoff is 1 p.m. What to watch for:

1. Two more rides on the Geno-coaster: There's nothing Geno Smith can do in the final two games to dramatically alter the landscape of the quarterback position -- it would be too little, too late -- but a couple of feel-good performances wouldn't hurt, that's for sure. Smith has made minor strides the last couple of games, but he hasn't delivered a "wow" game since Week 5 in Atlanta. The Browns are no pushover (ranked No. 8 in total defense), but they're known for late-game chokes. They've blown three straight fourth-quarter leads, losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and Chicago Bears. In fact, they've allowed six touchdowns and three field goals in their last nine possessions in the fourth quarter.

2. A swoon for the "Sons": Muhammad Wilkerson and Richardson -- two-thirds of the "Sons of Anarchy" defensive line -- are mired in a sack slump. They've both gone three straight games without a sack. In fact, Richardson has as many rushing touchdowns (one) as sacks over the last nine games. He's had a terrific season, but he could use one last push to boost his chances of winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Outside linebackers Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples have been carrying the pass rush. Coples, coming on strong after a slow start, has quietly notched three sacks in the last three games.

3. Covering Josh Gordon: This should be interesting. The Browns' wide receiver, leading the NFL with 1,467 receiving yards, is a matchup nightmare for the Jets. Gordon is dangerous with the ball in his hands -- 597 yards-after-catch, fourth in the league -- and we all know the Jets' secondary has experienced tackling issues. Presumably, the Jets will put Antonio Cromartie on Gordon, a chance for Cromartie to save some face after a disappointing season. They also figure to give him over-the-top help from Ed Reed. Maybe Reed and Cromartie can avoid colliding into each other. Gordon has the ability to singlehandedly wreck the game for the Jets.

4. New faces on D: With the playoffs out of reach, the Jets will try to take a look at some young players for evaluation purposes. Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman mentioned that he'd like to see more of safeties Jaiquawn Jarrett and Josh Bush. Unless they're planning to use a three-safety package, it could mean some bench time for Reed, who probably would find a way to blame the media. On offense, you could see more of wide receiver Saalim Hakim, whose speed is intriguing. The coaching staff can talk about playing the kids, but in reality, the Jets have been riding with them all season.