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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Cleveland Browns

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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Cleveland Browns

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

At 6-8, the New York Jets have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. They have had a roller coaster season, but overall they have very much exceeded all preseason expectations. Unfortunately for the Jets, they collapsed late in the season, and they are now left facing another offseason with questions about their coach and quarterback.

Before decisions are made on the futures of Rex Ryan and Geno Smith, however, the Jets must play two more games. The first of those is Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, which will be the Jets’ home finale. The Jets and Browns may both actually be better off losing this game because of draft positioning, but neither the coaches nor the players have anything other than winning on their minds.

Offensively, the Jets have been better over the last two weeks, but they remain one of the worst offensive teams in the NFL. There are major changes coming on this side of the ball in the offseason, which means that many players are auditioning for their jobs. Smith in particular will be closely evaluated.

The defense is fading late in the season, probably because they have been asked to play far more snaps than Ryan would like. However, this is a young, talented unit that wants to finish the season strong, and they have the ability to shut down the Browns’ underrated offense.

Although they would probably be better off with a higher draft pick, there is no doubt that the Jets are going to try and finish the season strong. They can still finish .500, which would be a huge accomplishment for this team. The playoffs may not be at stake, but there are still some key stories to keep an eye on.

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Can Geno Smith Close Season Strong?

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The most important question the Jets have to answer is whether or not Smith is their quarterback of the future. Smith has completed 55.3% of his passes this season for 2,642 yards, 10 TDs and 21 INTs this season. Needless to say, those numbers leave a ton of room for improvement.

Smith needs to put together a strong finish to prove to management that he is the player they should move forward with. Most importantly, the Jets don’t want to see any more interceptions. As things stand now, the Jets have to bring in another QB to compete with Smith, but he can end their concerns with some strong play.

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Veterans Could See Playing Time Reduced

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have several veterans in starting roles who are unlikely to return next season, including Ed Reed, Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow. It would be shocking to see any of those players return to New York, and each is blocking a younger player from seeing more time on the field.

For that reason, don’t be surprised to see players such as Zach Sudfeld, Josh Bush and Greg Salas get more playing time. Those are players that could have a future with the Jets, and the organization would be well served to increase their playing time and see what they can do. The Jets are building for the future, and there is no reason not to give young players a chance.

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Who Will State Case for Next Season?

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The Jets have several interesting free agent decisions coming up, including Austin Howard, Jeff Cumberland, Willie Colon, Calvin Pace, Darrin Walls and Leger Douzable. The Jets will do whatever it takes to bring Howard back, but the rest of those players still have something to prove. Ending on strong note could make the right impression on John Idzik.

Additionally, young players such as Dee Milliner, Brian Winters and Antonio Allen will want to prove that the Jets don’t need to bring in any competition for their jobs this offseason. Each of those players has struggled at points but has potential, and they will want to make sure they nail down the starting jobs for next season.

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Jets Look to Finish Solid Home Campaign

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

The Jets have been successful at MetLife Stadium this season, going 5-2. Beating the Browns and going 6-2 at home would be a very nice accomplishment, and it would show this team is moving in the right direction. Winning at home is essential in the NFL, and playoff teams almost always have very high winning percentages at home.

Of course, the Jets have been so bad on the road that they have undone what they’ve accomplished at home, but that can’t change Sunday. A win Sunday shows the Jets are at least winning half the battle, even if it is the easier half.

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Can Rex Ryan Save His Job?

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

This is the burning question around the Jets, and right now it isn’t looking good for the Ryan. This will be the third straight season he has missed the playoffs, and it could end up being the Jets’ second straight losing season. That is plenty of cause for an NFL head coach to be fired.

Idzik wants to bring in his own coach, so Ryan needs to win each of the final two games to prove to Idzik and Woody Johnson that he is still the right man for the job. He is the rare coach who has gotten to stay through the end of his contract, but don’t expect the Jets to give him another one.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google