The National Football League kicks off their two Saturday regular season schedule today with a pair of contests involving four AFC teams. The first game today, features the New York Jets hosting the Houston Texans at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Tonight, the Denver Broncos host the Cleveland Browns in a game that begins at 5:20 p.m. Pacific Time.
Next Saturday, the four teams involved, features three teams hoping to participate in this season’s postseason. The Tennessee Titans host the Redskins in the early Week 16 Saturday game and the night contest features two teams with playoff possibilities, when the Los Angeles Chargers, who already have a playoff berth clinched, host the Baltimore Ravens.
Both games today, involve one team with postseason aspirations and an opponent who would like to interrupt their playoff plans. Teams like the Jets and Browns, both squads under the direction of promising rookie quarterbacks, can only affect the playoffs by knocking someone else off … neither New York or Cleveland are headed to the postseason this year, but both teams took major strides this season in earning postseason berths in the near future.
The Browns and Jets spent the first and third picks in this year’s draft to secure the talents of two promising quarterbacks. The Browns made Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield the first pick in the allotment of college talent, and two selections later, the Jets chose Sam Darnold out of USC.
Darnold was inserted as the opening game starter for New York, and after an initial season win on the road in Detroit against the Lions, Darnold has had both high and low points in his rookie season. Injuries sidelined him for a handful of games, but he returned last week to guide a win over the Buffalo Bills. New York enters play today with only four regular season wins, but the promise of great things to come for Darnold and the Jets is alive and well.
Cleveland Quarterback Mayfield took over for an injured Tyrod Taylor in a nationally televised Thursday night game against the New York Jets in third week action, and engineered the Browns first win in two seasons. His play has sparked excitement in a Cleveland franchise that has five wins this season, which is four more than they earned in the prior two seasons combined.
Houston comes into today’s meeting with the Jets two games up in the AFC South Division over both the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. Last week, the Texans missed an opportunity to mount an insurmountable lead over the Colts when they had their nine game win streak snapped by Indianapolis in Texas.
Holding a two game division lead with three to play, the Texans are in good shape, but don’t have any postseason date yet locked in. It is exactly these kinds of situations that bring out the best in a team with nothing more to play for than to knock an opponent off a playoff bound track. What happens here, is the Jets get to play enthusiastic football with nothing to lose, while the Texans have the pressure of needing to win.
Later today, when the Browns visit Denver, the Broncos playoff possibilities are reliant on both the Broncos winning and help from other teams in contention for an AFC Wild Card berth losing. In this case, the pressure is not as great on the Broncos, as they are just as concerned about getting help as they are winning their own game … which motivationally makes winning their own game a lot easier.
Last week, the Broncos gave up a better chance to win a Wild Card berth when they were upset on the road by the San Francisco 49ers. The loss ended Denver’s three game winning streak and put their postseason hopes on life-support.