Just lose, baby.
Though not quite the inspirational motto that Al Davis, the late owner of the Oakland Raiders, became famous for, it’s a bit more fitting for the Jets’ Week 16 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
With both teams eliminated from playoff contention, the only two things the Jets and Browns have left to play for is pride and draft positioning.
And while pride is a wonderful thing to have – it’s not an ideal trait when it comes to needing to lose to help with rebuilding for the future.
No one would ever tell either team to intentionally throw the game -- they would get in a lot of trouble with the league office, for starters – but sometimes short-term losing is an essential element to long-term winning.
The Browns have lost their last five games and are currently one of five teams with 10 losses. Depending on how the tie breakers and other games play out, Cleveland could possibly have a top-five pick if they were to lose their two remaining games.
The Jets, meanwhile, have lost four out of their last five, and might very well move into the top 10 if they lose the next two weeks.
Should the Jets or Browns want to trade their respective picks, they carry much more value the higher a team selects.
Despite the importance of draft picks, Cleveland’s best player was actually selected during the NFL’s supplemental draft.
Mostly reserved for players who prematurely lose their college eligibility, the Browns took receiver Josh Gordon in the second round of the supplemental draft in 2012. Gordon was busted twice for marijuana while at Baylor University and then transferred to the University of Utah where he never played a game.
Following a productive rookie season, he currently leads the NFL in receiving yards – despite missing the first two games of the year due to a suspension from a cough medicine containing a banned substance.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie is likely going to be assigned with the task of covering Gordon for much of the game.
Fresh off Santonio Holmes taking a shot at the Carolina Panthers’ secondary before last week’s game, Gordon was wise to critique Cromartie’s play earlier in the week while still complimenting the veteran corner.
Even if Gordon were to verbally disrespect Cromartie and company, unlike Holmes, he would at least be able to back up his words.
Gordon’s size and speed is sure to give the Jets fits, but the Browns won’t have such an advantage in their running game.
Cleveland’s offense is largely built around the passing game and ranks near the bottom of the league in rushing yards per game.
The Jets and Browns are two of the best teams when it comes to stopping the run, so the Jets will need to establish something in the air as well.
Geno Smith isn’t assured of the starting job next season, and while a strong showing over the final two weeks still might not be enough, he needs to go out on a high note perhaps more than anyone on the roster.
Smith has performed better at home than on the road, so he’ll need to take advantage of the familiar surroundings in the Jets’ home finale.
With Smith and others playing for jobs next year, don’t expect anyone to just roll over and let the other team do as they please for the sake of losing.
Regardless of what’s at stake, you can still expect both teams to go out and give their all in an attempt to come away with the victory.
Even if it might not be in their best interest to do so.