Saturday, January 2, 2010

Week 17: Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets Preview

Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
January 3, 2010, 8:20 PM. NBC-TV. Giants Stadium.

The Jets will attempt to do what the Giants could not, and that is close out the old stadium in style. After a controversial win at 14-0 Indianapolis in which the Colts pulled their starters midway through the 3rd quarter, the Jets may be catching a similar break this week. Cincinnati will likely have nothing to play for except possibly the difference between a #3 and a #4 seed. If the Patriots win early, the Bengals are likely facing a rematch with the Jets in the first round of the playoffs, so they probably want to rest guys and not show too much to their potential first round opponent. As for the Jets, they just want to get in.

When the Bengals have the ball…


Despite a variety of weapons, the Bengals’ offense really hasn’t been too prolific this year. To put it in perspective, Mark Sanchez and the Jets have scored more points this season than Carson Palmer and the Bengals. But what the Bengals do well is have an offense that makes big plays in big situations, complimenting a very good defense very well. Palmer and company have had a number of huge 4th quarter drives to put games away.

Of course, Palmer might not get a chance late to bring his team from behind because Marvin Lewis should pull his starters early. The Bengals don’t have a whole lot to play for, so it may be in their best interest to treat this as a bye week and get ready for a potential rematch next week.

When Palmer is in the game, his primary weapon will be the chatty but talented Chad Ochocinco. The receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson has had a huge bounceback year with 72 catches for 1047 yards and nine touchdowns. As is always the case when a team has a clear-cut number one receiver, the Jets will counter with Darrelle Revis, a matchup Ochocinco has compared to Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao in boxing. Ochocinco is a difficult matchup, but it’s hard to bet against Revis in that one.

Palmer’s other main weapons are former Jet Laveranues Coles and Andre Caldwell. Coles has been working more out of the slot lately, and while he’s been a bit of a disappointment for the Bengals, you can bet he’ll be going all out against his old team to prove a point. Caldwell has had some big catches this season, but he’s more of a possession receiver and not a gamebreaker.

The Bengals’ bread and butter all season offensively has been the running game. Cedric Benson is one of the few true workhorses in the NFL, averaging 4.2 yards-per-carry for 1251 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He’ll be spelled a lot more in this game by former Chief Larry Johnson and third down back Brian Leonard. The Bengals want to run the ball on teams and control time of possession, just like the Jets.

Cincinnati is mostly a grind-it-out offense that gets yards when it has to. They don’t get a whole lot of big plays, even though Ochocinco is certainly dangerous. The Jets should match up well with them defensively, especially considering we will probably see a lot of J.T. O’Sullivan, Palmer’s backup. He’s turnover-prone, and this defense has made turnover-prone quarterbacks miserable (Curtis Painter, JaMarcus Russell, Jake Delhomme).

Edge: Jets

When the Jets have the ball…


This is it, folks. 15 games into the season, Mark Sanchez is no longer as green as he was when he began, and it’s time for him to help the team win. He did his job admirably last week, not turning the ball over and converting several key first downs when the team needed it. The Jets are a run-first team, but the passing game needs to be effective to take pressure off Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene, and the offensive line.

The Bengals’ run defense is 2nd in the NFL, but they took a hit losing starting linebacker Rey Maualuga last week. The Jets could target his replacement Rashad Jeanty with their two-headed rushing attack. New York is going to try to wear down the Bengals’ front seven, pounding them over and over again. The Jets have done most of their rushing damage in the 4th quarter against worn down defenses, and that very well may be the case again. Of course, the Bengals could make it easier by taking out a number of their starting players.

The Cincinnati defense also offers a pair of talented cornerbacks that can rival any tandem in the NFL in Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph. They will be locked up with Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards as long as they are in the game. The linebacking corps has also done a solid job against opposing tight ends this year as well, so it’ll be tough to move the ball on this Bengals’ defense through the air.

There’s a reason why the Bengals have won 10 games and are going to the playoffs, and it is their defense. They allow 16.9 points per game, 5th in the NFL, and they are 4th in the NFL in yards allowed. They win a lot of low scoring games based on their defense. The Bengals have 18 interceptions this year and have returned two to the house, and given Sanchez’s season-long struggle to not turn the ball over, you can bet that Hall, Joseph, and the rest of the Bengals are going to be salivating at the chance to score against a rookie quarterback.

The Jets just need to score enough to win this game. The defense should do its job, so not that many points should be needed. Still, Brian Schottenheimer is in a tricky spot. He can't put too much on Sanchez's plate or he might lose the game. But the Bengals' have a good enough run defense where they might need to throw the football to win. The Atlanta game is a perfect example of Schottenheimer's conundrum. The Jets moved the ball up and down the field, but he didn't put Sanchez in many opportunities to throw the ball, so the Jets only put up 7 points and lost the game. Of course, the Jets also missed three field goals, and the defense failed in the end, but the offense needs to put up more points. Schottenheimer is supposedly going to interview for the Bills vacant coaching position after the season, so he's going to want to put a good gameplan together, so he could maybe get that job.

Edge: Bengals

Special Teams


The Jets hadn’t been much of a threat returning kicks and punts until Brad Smith’s record-breaking 106-yard return to start the 2nd half last week. Like the Jets, the Bengals haven’t had much success returning kicks. Bernard Scott has taken one to the house, but he’s missed the last several games. He might return this week, and he could be a wild card to watch. Both Jay Feely and Shayne Graham are good kickers, but the Jets could have punting problems if Steve Weatherford is hobbled at all. The Jets opted not to sign a replacement for Weatherford, who is questionable with a hamstring injury.

Edge: Bengals

Prediction


The Jets are 9.5 or 10 point favorites for a reason. While the two teams match up pretty well to play a close, low-scoring game, Las Vegas does not expect the starters to stay in that long, and neither do I. And why would they? The Bengals can lose this game, get a scrimmage in against their first round playoff opponent, and keep the Steelers out of the playoffs. They have little incentive to play their starters in the 2nd half, where the Jets should be able to pound the football and win the game. It should be close early, but the Jets will pull away late, opening up criticism from the mass media that other teams let the Jets into the playoffs. Screw ‘em. The Jets can only play who is on the field.

Jets 20, Bengals 6