On Sunday night (8:20 EST) the (10-5) Cincinnati Bengals take on the (8-7) New York Jets in the last regular season game that is ever going to be played at the Meadowlands. If you are a fan of football drama this game is the one for you as there are several subplots to keep an eye on. For starters this game has huge playoff implications as the Jets are in a “win and you are in” situation. If Gang Green loses to the Bengals they will be eliminated from playoff contention. From the Bengals perspective, if the Patriots win earlier in the day, Cincinnati has nothing to play for, as their playoff seed will be determined. The Bengals will then have to deal with a situation similar to the Indianapolis Colts, where playing time for their starters has to be evaluated. In addition if the Jets beat the Bengals and the Patriots win earlier in the day, the two teams will match-up the following weekend in the 1st round of the AFC playoffs. The Bengals would then have to decide between playing their starters and trying to eliminate the Jets this week or holding back their game plan for an element of surprise in the playoffs. To say that it will be interesting to see how this all plays out is an understatement.
Lets take a look at how these two teams match-up assuming that Cincinnati plays their starters for the majority of the game.
New York Jets Offense vs. Cincinnati Bengals Defense
The Jets offense will have their hands full with the Bengals defense as they are ranked 14th against the pass, 2nd against the run, for an overall ranking of 4th in the National Football League. Gang Green is going to try to control the line of scrimmage and establish their running game while Cincinnati is going to try and stuff the run in order to put pressure on rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. There will be a lot of pressure on Sanchez as not only is he playing in the most important game of his young NFL career, but he may be asked to make several throws down the field in order to put points up on the board. Sanchez has been turnover prone and cannot afford to make any mistakes for the Jets to have a chance to win the game. If the rookie starts out tentative early, it could be a long night for the Jets offense.
Key to the game: The spotlight is going to be on the highly regarded Jets offensive line, who must impose their will on the Cincinnati Bengals. The last thing the Jets want is a struggling running game, which will put the ball in a rookie quarterback’s hands with the season on the line.
New York Jets Defense vs. Cincinnati Bengals Offense
The Jets #1 ranked defense will look to shut down the Bengals 6th ranked rushing attack. This will be no easy attack as Cincinnati has two powerful runners in Cedric Benson and Larry Johnson. In terms of the passing game, the Bengals are led by quarterback Carson Palmer and receiving threats Chad Ochocinco and Laveranues Coles. The Jets will place All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis on Ochocinco, with Lito Sheppard taking on Coles. Sheppard struggled last week with wide receiver Austin Collie and cannot have a repeat poor performance this week against a potentially explosive passing attack.
The excitement about this Sunday night match-up is running rampant throughout all of Jets nation. The stadium should have an electric feel to it that should provide Gang Green with more than enough fire and energy. The key to the game will be the performance of Mark Sanchez, who cannot make the big mistake that will ruin the momentum of the offense. I expect both Sanchez and the Jets to play very well but think the game will be very close heading into the fourth quarter. In the end Gang Green, led by their inspired defense, finds a way to win. Jets 17-14