New York Jets (8-2) vs Cincinnati Bengals (2-8)
Thursday, November 25, 2010
New Meadowlands Stadium
Line: Jets -8.5
After yet another roller coaster victory, the New York Jets hope to put together a more convincing performance on Thanksgiving day and give their fans something to be thankful for. The Bengals are coming off a second half collapse at home to the Buffalo Bills, allowing 35 points in the 2nd half alone. The Bengals have nothing to play for at this point, but in front of a national audience, they should show up and play pretty hard. If the Jets are looking ahead to next week's epic showdown with New England, they could potentially be picked off.
When the Bengals have the ball..
The Bengals have transformed from a run-heavy offense to a pass-first offense this season. Much of that has to do with the addition of the mercurial Terrell Owens. T.O. has been a revelation this year with his personal play, but the team results have been awful. And with Chad Ochocinco on the other side wanting his fair share of passes, it's no surprise that Owens and Ochocinco have combined for 211 targets in the first 10 games. By contrast, Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Jerricho Cotchery combine for 190. When Palmer goes back to pass, it's usually to one of his top two receivers. And that's good news for this Jets' defense.
It's no secret that the biggest strength of this defense is the cornerback play. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie is the best cornerback tandem in the league. It's the rest of the pass defense that has let the Jets down this season. If Palmer forces the ball to his top two receivers, who will almost certainly be covered by the Jets' dynamic duo, he'll have a tough time moving the ball. Slot receiver Jordan Shipley and rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham are nice secondary targets. If Palmer tries to exploit mismatches against the Jets' safeties, linebackers, and other cornerbacks, he'll have more success.
Unless, of course, the Jets don't give him time to make all of his progressions. That hasn't been the case this season. The Jets keep blitzing, but they have barely provided any pressure all season. The Bengals' offensive line is poor. While Palmer hasn't gotten sacked a ton this year, good defenses have been able to apply pressure and force mistakes. Revis and Cromartie are good enough to capitalize on those mistakes, if the Jets can find a way to get in Palmer's face.
That offensive line has also failed to create many holes for Cedric Benson. After resurrecting his career last season, Benson only averages 3.7 yards-per-carry this season. The Jets have been great against the run all season long, including last week for the most part against Arian Foster. The Jets allow just 90.3 yards-per-game on the ground and 3.5 yards-per-carry. Cincinnati also doesn't make big gains on the ground, and the Jets have only allowed 4 runs of over 20 yards (none over 40), so that probably won't start now.
This game could become a blowout if the Jets can start forcing turnovers. That's been a problem for this year, especially getting interceptions. The defense has forced 9 fumbles this year, tied for the NFL lead but just 5 interceptions, 2nd worst in the NFL. That's been the missing element of this defense for two years, and rather than improve, it's become a bigger problem. The biggest reason for that is the lack of a pass rush (just 17 sacks all season, 26th in the NFL). That's the key to this game for Gang Green: figure out how to get the pass rush working again, so Tom Brady doesn't have all day to sit in the pocket next week, and Palmer locks down on his main target this week.
When the Jets have the ball...
During the Bengals' 6 game losing streak, they've allowed 22 or more points every week. This past week was the worst showing of the year by this defense, allowing 35 2nd half points to the Bills at home. It's very possible this defense has quit and will throw in the towel if the Jets start of strong. The pass defense, led by cornerbacks Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, are strong, but the Bengals may have the worst pass rush in the NFL. Sanchez should have time to make his reads and find the open man.
Cincinnati's run defense is just as bad. The linebackers are fairly slow and undisciplined, so the Jets should get back on track on the ground. The Bengals allow 4.4 yards-per-carry and the most 20+ yard runs in the NFL (13). Only one has broken for more than 40 yards, but it just shows the Jets can get to the 2nd level when running the ball. Look for the Jets to try to run the ball a little more early this week, even getting Brad Smith involved in the Wildcat. It was extremely successful last year against the Bengals, so it's definitely worth trying again this time around. Shonn Green and LaDainian Tomlinson will also take turns getting their shots at this defense.
Sanchez will have to take care of the ball, though. Cincinnati has 12 interceptions on the year, and Hall and Joseph can make plays on receivers. But they aren't shut-down cornerbacks, so Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes will win their share of battles. Sanchez had one of the best games of the season last year in the playoffs against the Bengals, getting Dustin Keller involved a lot. Keller has been largely forgotten over the past several weeks. This could be a good time to unleash him again.
But the Jets must first convert their drives into touchdowns, not field goals. The Jets have been poor in the red zone all year at getting 7 instead of 3, and that's something that must improve, especially with next week's showdown with New England on the schedule. The Jets have enough weapons. It's just a matter of playcalling and execution.
At first I was worried about a letdown for the Jets, looking ahead to New England. But this Bengals team has all but given up, and the Jets are a terrible matchup for them. They have the cornerbacks to beat Ochocinco and Owens, and while the pass rush hasn't been good, the Jets will send enough numbers to fluster Palmer a little bit. Meanwhile, after Cedric Benson ran all over the Jets in the playoffs last season, you can bet the Jets will be ready for him, despite his subpar year. The Bengals defense has not been very good this year, and the Jets are almost certain to score 20+ points. And if they get ahead, this Bengals team is likely to implode like last week.
Jets 27, Bengals 13