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SERIES: 19th meeting. Browns lead series, 11-7. This will be the Jets' second visit to Cleveland since the franchise rejoined the NFL as an expansion team in 1999. The Jets won 10-7 in Cleveland in 2004 behind then-backup QB Quincy Carter, subbing for an injured Chad Pennington.
2006 RANKINGS: Jets: offense 19th (13th rush, 23rd pass); defense 30th (28th rush, 26th pass). Browns: offense 32nd (31st rush, 26th pass); defense 22nd (29th rush, 10th pass)
PREDICTION: Browns 24-23
KEYS TO THE GAME: Jets coach Eric Mangini and Browns coach Romeo Crennel were both defensive assistants under New England coach Bill Belichick, but Mangini is experiencing far more success at this point than his close friend. Crennel let offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon go this week, with Jeff Davidson taking over the play-calling. Davidson would be wise to stick with a heavy dose of the ground game -- the Jets allow 142.2 rushing yards per game and the Browns have to find a way to protect QB Charlie Frye better. RB Reuben Droughns has the ability to wear a defense down and the longer the Browns' offense is on the field the more it protects the defense as well. Cleveland lost CB Gary Baxter for the season and the Jets will attempt to exploit the secondary with three-receiver sets featuring WRs Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery and Justin McCareins. With rookie RB Leon Washington providing a strong ground presence in recent games, QB Chad Pennington should have success working off play-action.
FAST FACTS: Jets: Have matched 2005 win total. ... Coles' 42 receptions are the most by a Jet through seven games since Al Toon's 43 in 1986. Browns: Crennel was the Jets' defensive line coach from 1997-99. ... Are averaging 14.6 yards per game after finishing last in the NFL at 14.5 last season.
--SS Kerry Rhodes hasn't had a sack the past four games after producing three strip sacks in a two-game span against New England and Buffalo.
--WR/PR Tim Dwight (thigh) practiced on a limited basis Thursday. This has become the norm for Dwight, who is expected to be available Sunday.
--WR Laveranues Coles (calf) is listed as questionable and did not practice fully Thursday. Like WR/PR Tim Dwight, that has become the norm for the physically tough Coles.
--RB Cedric Houston (knee) practiced on a limited basis Thursday and is listed as questionable. He hasn't played since suffering a knee injury against Indianapolis on Oct. 1.
--RT Anthony Clement practiced Thursday but was added to the injury list as probable with a back injury.
--DE Shaun Ellis practiced Thursday but was added to the injury list as probable with a back injury.
--RB Curtis Martin (knee) won't return to practice until at least after the Cleveland game, coach Eric Mangini said this week, reiterating his stance of a week ago.
--OT Ryan Tucker has been absent from the team due to an undiagnosed illness that is being treated on an outpatient basis. Tucker's illness makes it highly unlikely he will play Sunday against the Jets.
--OT Kelly Butler probably will get his first start Sunday against the Jets in place of Ryan Tucker. Butler started 16 games a year ago in Detroit but was waived at the end of camp before being claimed by the Browns.
--WR Dennis Northcutt's ribs remain sore, and his status for Sunday is in doubt. Northcutt's presence as the third receiver and as a punt returner clearly helps the offense.
--RB Reuben Droughns may benefit more than anyone from the switch to Jeff Davidson as the team's offensive coordinator. Presumably an offensive line coach would listen to linemen, all of whom said the Browns never committed to the run this season.
--QB Charlie Frye missed a play last Sunday after taking a blow to the head, but he has shown no signs of problems this week. Frye answered questions clearly and was not listed on the injury report.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The Jets finally got their running game in gear against Detroit on Sunday, but they will face a big obstacle this week. Literally.
Like the Jets, Cleveland runs a 3-4 defense. Not surprising, since head coach Romeo Crennel tutored under Bill Belichick in New England just like Eric Mangini. But the difference between the teams is that the Browns have a legitimate nose tackle, 6-foot-5, 365-pound Ted Washington.
"It's hard to miss Ted," left guard Pete Kendall said. "You know when he's out there and you pretty much know what he's going to do. The challenge is pretty much trying to execute against him."
However, the 16th-year veteran isn't quite the force he used to be. He has 21 tackles through six games but hasn't bolstered the Browns rush defense in his first season in Cleveland.
Cleveland is 29th in the league in rushing defense, allowing 144.2 yards per game. The Browns also are allowing 4.6 yards per carry. Even the Jets' much-maligned rush defense allows less, giving up 4.5 yards an attempt.
Still, the Jets are wary of Washington.
"Ted is very good at what he does," Kendall said, "and that's controlling the A gaps and occupying the center. There's no real secret, because it's not really a finesse game."
And Washington will get the chance to use some of his experience against a rookie center, although Nick Mangold hasn't really played like one.
"The highest compliment anyone can give (Mangold)," Kendall said, "is that he's come in and played like he's been here before. That's the most impressive thing for a guy who hasn't been here, to play like he's has."
"This is going to be another huge challenge," Mangold said. "He's a dominating guy. It's going to be a long 60 minutes.
"I could use a little help. It's going to come down to looking at my technique and making sure it's correct. I listen to guys like Pete (Kendall) and Trey (Teague). I use their ideas and see if they come into play during the game."
Mangold is an Ohio native and an Ohio State product, so he at least has some idea of what the atmosphere will be like, having once attended a game in Cleveland.
"It was a couple of years ago," he recalled. "Somehow we had a Sunday off and got tickets. We didn't get to sit in the 'Dawg Pound,' but we got to see it from the stands, and it was pretty crazy."
Mangold's challenge Sunday will be to keep it a little more sane.
Offensive linemen were the happiest group following the "resignation" of Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon and the promotion of Jeff Davidson.
In one sense, it's logical the line would be happy since Davidson was their position coach. But linemen were the prime group to express frustration at the Carthon regime, which had the Browns last in total offense this season.
"A lot of confusion," guard Joe Andruzzi said. "A lot of young guys not on the same page."
Guard Cosey Coleman said Carthon's direct, confrontational style "was not a recipe for success."
Davidson will not revamp the entire offense, but players expect more logical play-calling, and they expect plays to be called properly. Apparently under Carthon, plays were sent in with the wrong protection and with the wrong alignment.
"(Davidson) has a good understanding of what type of offense we want to run, how to get things flowing, how to get it right for the right guys," Andruzzi said.
"He knows football," Coleman said. "When he talks, when he explains things and breaks down things, you feel as though he knows what he's talking about.
"It gives you more insight and confidence to go out and do what is asked of you because you are more confident it will work."