Looking to Rebound

At times, the Cleveland Browns have looked like a team that's destined to make just its second playoff appearance in 10 years. At others, they've looked like the inexperienced club that has finished last in the AFC North the last four seasons.

After their latest sloppy loss dented their playoff chances, the Browns look to get back on track when they visit the New York Jets on Sunday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Cleveland -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 47.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Cleveland (7-5) has been one of the most surprising teams in the NFL this season, thanks in part to some late rallies and lucky bounces.

In their last five games, they have two overtime wins, including one over Baltimore on Nov. 18 in which Phil Dawson's tying 51-yard field goal in the final seconds of regulation had to be reviewed by officials. After the kick was initially ruled no good, the call was overturned and the players back were brought back onto the field for overtime. Dawson connected again in the extra period to give the Browns a 33-30 victory.

Strong - and fortunate - finishes like that one have helped the Browns stay in the playoff chase. They're tied with Tennessee for the AFC's final wild-card spot.

Defeats such as Sunday's 27-21 loss to Arizona, however, have kept Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel from getting too excited about postseason possibilities.

"I know that other people have been talking about playoffs and all of that stuff, but I don't talk about it," Crennel said Monday. "Hopefully, they listen to me more than they listen to everybody else."

Cleveland committed four turnovers and 10 penalties Sunday to fall to 2-4 on the road. The Browns had won five of six entering the contest, but turned the ball over on their first two possessions, leading to a 14-0 deficit they never overcame.

"We were definitely on a roll," guard Eric Steinbach said. "It was a little wake up call to say, hey, four weeks left in the season. We've got to get things together."

Sunday's defeat was the third time this season the Browns have committed at least four turnovers, and they're winless in those games. They're 7-2 when they have two giveaways or fewer.

Though the Browns would be in much better playoff position had they pulled out a win last week, Cleveland running back Jamal Lewis thinks the loss could actually be a blessing if the Browns can learn from their mistakes and improve for a postseason push.

"Sometimes a game like that, it sneaks up and bites you, but it can be a good thing to humble you and let you know that we need to get better," Lewis said. "That's what championship teams do."

The Browns stand a good chance of improving because they have the easiest remaining schedule of any of the AFC playoff contenders. Of their four remaining opponents, none currently has a winning record.

After visiting New York, Cleveland hosts Buffalo, visits Cincinnati and closes the season at home against San Francisco.

While the Jets (3-9) appear to be a favorable opponent on paper, they've won two of their last three games, including an overtime victory over AFC North-leading Pittsburgh. They followed that win with a loss at NFC East-leading Dallas on Thanksgiving, but bounced back by beating winless Miami 40-13 on Sunday.

"Getting a win against anyone is great," linebacker Bryan Thomas said. "Our opponent's record doesn't dictate if it's the biggest win or the smallest win. A win, period, is just great."

In perhaps his strongest game of the season, Kellen Clemens completed 15 of 24 passes for 236 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Dolphins. He connected with eight receivers, keeping the Miami defense off-balance.

"There were a lot of things I was happy with about his play," Jets coach Eric Mangini said.

Mangini also praised receiver Laveranues Coles, who led the team with five catches and 69 yards despite playing through an ankle injury.

"I thought he did a great job," Mangini said. "He had some big third-down receptions. He fought through a difficult situation and he's been so diligent with trying to get ready to play these games and not being able to have the practice time he usually has."

Coles' status for Sunday is uncertain. Mangini called Coles' recovery "an ongoing process," like that of receiver Jerricho Cotchery, the team leader in receptions (54) and receiving yards (730) who missed last week's game with a broken right index finger.

If Coles and Cotchery are healthy, they'll likely get plenty of opportunities against a Cleveland defense that has given up 338 points - most in the NFL. The Browns are allowing 258.4 passing yards per game, ranking them 30th in the league.

The Browns, though, have won three of the previous four meetings with the Jets, including a 20-13 victory in Cleveland last Oct. 29. They held New York without an offensive touchdown in that game.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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