New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday January 9, 2010, 4:30 PM. Paul Brown Stadium. NBC-TV
In one of three week 17 rematches, the Cincinnati Bengals look to get revenge against a New York Jets team that smashed it 37-0 on Sunday Night. The Jets want to build off last week's momentum while the Bengals want to show last week was an anomaly, and this week, with a number of their starters back and in front of their home crowd with all the motivation in the world, they will win. These are two very good defenses, which should lead to a close, hard-fought game between two teams hungry to prove their critics wrong.
When the Jets have the ball...
While Rex Ryan says that the Jets are favorites to win the Super Bowl, it's hard to see them getting there because they still hide their quarterback. The Jets do have the #1 rushing attack in the league, and they will certainly pound the Bengals' defense as much as they can, but far too often, the excessive running has led to the Jets moving the ball pretty well but not putting up points.
Last week, the Jets were 6 for 6 on 3rd downs when they ran the football. That won't happen again. The Jets are a team that fights uphill for every first down against good defenses, and that won't change here.
Still, there's reason to have hope that the Jets can overpower the Bengals. While Cincinnati certainly played vanilla last week, the Jets were stronger in the trenches, and that led to big games for Thomas Jones and Brad Smith. Smith was effective out of the shotgun and behind center running the football. Ryan hinted that he might throw the ball this week, and as a former college quarterback, that's always a possibility. Like I said earlier, if the Jets can move the ball without putting Mark Sanchez at risk to make mistakes, they will do it.
At some point, however, Sanchez will have to make a few plays, and that includes on Saturday. He has some weapons to throw to in Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and Dustin Keller. However, Edwards and Cotchery are matched up against one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall, and Keller was often replaced in blocking situations last week, so Brian Schottenheimer needs to be creative to get his players open and in situations to make plays for Sanchez.
Bengals' defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is going to load the box with 8, maybe 9 guys, and dare the Jets to throw the football. At some point, they will probably have to. The Jets could take a shot or two deep, as Braylon Edwards nearly had a long touchdown last game, but the enigmatic receiver jumped too early and couldn't come down with it. Gang Green doesn't have a big margin for error. If he has that opportunity, he has to make that play.
But the most important thing for this offense is to not turn the football over. The two rookies have struggled there. Sanchez has 23 turnovers this season, and even though he's been error-free the past two weeks, these cornerbacks are very good and can make plays if he makes mistakes. Shonn Greene fumbled last week, but it was overturned by an offsides penalty.
In the end, this is an offense that needs to make the most of its opportunities. The Bengals' defense is very good, but even though they bring back S Chris Corker, DT Domata Peko, and DE Robert Geathers, the injuries are starting to mount, with DT Pat Sims being lost last week. The Jets could be able to move the ball, but third-and-long situations and redzone spots could cause problems. Getting touchdowns instead of field goals will be paramount, and I'm not sure if the Jets will be able to do that.
When the Bengals have the ball...
The Bengals are a much more balanced offense than the Jets, but they don't have a dominant unit. They're a run-oriented team with one big playmaker in the passing game but they lack explosion. That's a good matchup for the Jets.
Carson Palmer was 1-11 for 0 yards last week, and part of the reason why is Darrelle Revis can lock down Chad Johnson. Revis has shut down top receivers all season, and there's no reason why Johnson will break the mold. And if he does, he can go back to being Ochocinco. "It's easy to shut someone down when they can't cut," said Johnson, making excuses for his catchless performance. "This is going to be a whole new ballgame." We shall see.
Cedric Benson returns this week. He's a tough workhorse back who is good between the tackles. He will be fresh with a week of rest. He'll be back, and David Harris will be less than 100%, so that is a big swing in favor of the Bengals. Still, the Jets have a very good defense outside of Harris, so they should be able to help pick up the slack. Benson is a good back on third down and short, which will be a key for both teams.
The loss of Chris Henry hurts the Bengals on the field as well, as his size/speed combination was a constant deep threat teams had to worry about. Laveranues Coles and Andre Caldwell are solid possession receivers, but Lito Sheppard and Dwight Lowery can match up against them. The Bengals don't have a threat at tight end, so it's hard to see the Bengals moving the ball through the air against the #1 pass defense in the league. They looked overmatched in the first half last week, and while they'll be better Saturday, how much better will they be?
The Jets are the #1 pass defense in the NFL for a good reason. They are a great cover team, and Rex Ryan disguises blitzes to confuse quarterbacks. Palmer is a solid veteran, but he looked a bit off last week, and Ryan will work on doing that again this time around. They just need to be consistent. The Bengals are not a high-powered offense at all, but when they do get deep into Jets' territory, the Jets must keep them out of the endzone to protect their offense and not force them to put up a lot of points. For them to win, Gang Green must be the better defense. And they should be.
The Bengals have a slightly better return game, with Bernard Scott and Quan Cosby being effective returning kicks and punts respectively. Brad Smith had one big return against Indianapolis, but that has been the only memorable moment from the return game this season. The Jets also have punting issues, as Steve Weatherford has had hamstring problems the past week and a half. Weatherford punted well last week, but it's a situation to monitor. Jay Feely has been a great kicker this year, but he doesn't have a huge leg. The one wild card could be how well both teams snap and hold as well as kick. Jets fans all have tried to forget the Atlanta game week 15 where the Jets botched three field goals, but the Bengals have had their share of snapping and holding woes early in the season. In cold and possibly wet weather, these issues could flare up.
This is a difficult game to predict. The Jets are the better running team and the better pass defense team, and the run defenses are pretty even. The question will be how much will Carson Palmer outplay Mark Sanchez by. If Sanchez is completely ineffective in the cold in his first playoff game against a crowd hoping for its first playoff win since 1990, it wouldn't be surprising. But it would be surprising if Palmer had a big game against Revis and the Jets. This should be a close game, and in a close game, I'll take a better defense and running game, even in a tough situation.
Jets 13, Bengals 9