Browns, Jets search for positive finishes among slumping seasons

DENNIS WASZAK Jr. AP Sports Writer Published:

By Dennis Waszak Jr. | Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets' playoff hopes ended with many of the players and coaches sitting at home and watching TV.

Justin Tucker's 61-yard field goal in the closing moments of Baltimore's 18-16 victory at Detroit officially eliminated the Jets -- and they couldn't do anything about it. Except sit with wide eyes and dropped jaws, wondering what might have been.

"Detroit let us down," linebacker Calvin Pace said with a hint of a smile.

Pace also knows the Jets (6-8) let themselves down throughout an up-and-down season that has coach Rex Ryan's future uncertain heading into the final two games. It's the third straight year the Jets won't be going to the playoffs or have a winning record.

"We hate to put ourselves in a position where another team controls our destiny," rookie quarterback Geno Smith said. "But that's the way it was."

Now the goal is to finish on a positive note and aim for a .500 record, with a game against the Cleveland Browns (4-10) up next in the Jets' home finale.

"We have to treat these next two games like this week is the AFC championship game and next game is the Super Bowl," Pace said. "That's all we can do."

The Browns know the feeling. Cleveland hasn't been to the postseason since 2002, a frustrating stretch of futility that has some of the Browns' veterans wondering when -- and if -- it will end.

"Hopefully, this will be the last year," said left tackle Joe Thomas, with the team since 2007.

It appeared for a while this season under first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski could have been different. But five straight losses and eight in nine games put a quick and ugly end to the Browns' faint playoff hopes a few weeks ago.

"It's been definitely a crazy roller-coaster ride," wide receiver Josh Gordon said.

Here are five things to know heading into the Browns' matchup with the Jets on Sunday:

REX'S FUTURE: Mum's the word so far from owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik on whether Ryan will be around for a sixth season.

Ryan has one year remaining on his contract, and despite the coach exceeding outside expectations while working with a young and inexperienced roster, Johnson might be looking to make some changes. It's the Jets' first three-year stretch without a winning record since 1994-96.

"We've made mistakes as coaches, I've certainly made mistakes," Ryan said. "Players have made mistakes, but I think generally, overall, we've put forth the effort and I do think we're getting better."

GO-TO GORDON: After making history for four weeks, Gordon had a quiet Sunday last week.

He caught just three passes for 67 yards, 43 coming on a late, meaningless touchdown, and was targeted just once in the first half. Those numbers were a monumental drop from what he did over the previous four games, when he racked up 774 yards receiving -- the best four-game stretch in NFL history.

"I got frustrated, yeah, throughout the game," said Gordon, who leads the league with 1,467 yards. "You want to see your team do a lot better than what was going on. But regardless, every time I go out there on the next drive, I'm still going to try to make a play."

GENO STILL THE MAN?: Smith has already set the Jets' franchise mark for yards passing for a rookie, but it's his other stats that have New York wondering if he's the quarterback of the future.

His 21 interceptions are second only to the 25 by the Giants' Eli Manning, and his 62.9 rating is lowest in the league among starting quarterbacks. Smith fully expects to be in a quarterback competition next summer -- but will it be with a proven veteran signed through free agency or a first-round draft pick?

IRON JOE: Thomas has never missed a snap in his NFL career with the Browns. That's 6,795 consecutive snaps, and that's saying something for a player who, after winning 10 games as a rookie in 2007, has endured six straight seasons of at least 10 losses.

"We have to do something about that," Thomas said, "and hopefully it's going to be different next year."

CAMERON'S CONCUSSION: The Jets might not have to worry about Browns tight end Jordan Cameron, a matchup nightmare who leads the team with 75 receptions and is second in yards receiving and touchdowns.

Cameron was following the NFL's protocol for head injuries after suffering a concussion against Chicago. He has played in 930 of the Browns' 975 offensive snaps.

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