On Thanksgiving night (8:20 EST) the New York Jets (8-2) take on the Cincinnati Bengals (2-8) at the New Meadowlands Stadium. The Jets enter the game winners of three in a row ( all 3 nail biters), while the Bengals crawl in losers of 7 in a row, including a complete collapse last week against the Bills. Lets take a look at some of the keys to the game.
Improved offensive line play- Last week the Jets offensive line struggled as the pocket repeatedly collapsed and the running game struggled to get going. The unit is expected to be without Damien Woody but still must find ways to win the battles in the trenches. Wayne Hunter is expected to fill in for Woody and the Jets should consider some max protection packages if the pass rush continues to get to Sanchez.
Ground and Pound- The Bengals defense is ranked 23rd against the run which should play to the strength of the Jets offense which is their running game. Gang Green should try and get their running game going early which could quickly demoralize a banged up Cincy defense.
Spread out the D- The Cincy defense enters the game a banged up unit especially in the secondary. If the Jets can get the running game going, they should then take some shots down the field via play action pass. If the running game struggles, Gang Green may have to consider last week’s approach and let Sanchez air it out which he should have some success doing as well.
Contain Benson- The Bengals have struggled to get their running game going this year (ranked 23rd) but still have a powerful back in Cedric Benson that can wear down a defense. Lets not forget that Cedric ran all over the Jets in the playoffs last year racking up 169 yards. The Jets defense must eliminate the running game in order to establish their blitz packages for the passing game.
Pound Palmer- The Bengals offensive line struggles to protect Carson Palmer as they have allowed 56 quarterback hits, 9th worst in the NFL. Gang Green must get pressure on Palmer, who is not very mobile, and force him into poor decisions. If the Jets give Carson time to throw the ball, they could be in for a long night.
Revis vs. T.O.- The war of words has begun with Jets corner Darrelle Revis and Bengals receiver Terrell Owens, now it is time to back it up on the field. Owens is having an excellent year for the Bengals (62 catches/897 yards/8tds) and Revis must find ways to contain and frustrate the mouthy star. A frustrated Owens could become a major distraction to his team, while a productive T.O. could open up the entire Bengals offense.
Gresham and Shipley-With Cromartie and Revis busy with Ochocinco and Owens, the rest of the Jets defense must be aware of and contain receiver Jordan Shipley (35 grabs) and tight end Jermaine Gresham (leads all NFL rookies with 42 catches). The Jets have struggled covering third and fourth options in the passing game and must clean up their communication issues in the secondary.
Emotional letdown- The Jets have become the cardiac kids as they have won their last 3 games in dramatic fashion. Gang Green must avoid an emotional letdown, especially considering the short work week. In addition the Jets must avoid looking past the Bengals to their primetime match-up with the Patriots in week 13. Cincinnati may be 2-8 but they have a ton of talent on offense that could upset the Jets if the team looks past them.
On paper this is a game that the Jets should win convincingly especially considering the Bengals collapse on Sunday. But as you know games are not played on paper therefore the Jets must have a solid performance in order to get a victory. I think the Jets will bounce back strong defensively as this is a prideful group, led by Bart Scott, that will not settle for back to back poor performances. I think Gang Green will get to Carson Palmer and force him into poor decisions which will result in points for the Jets. Offensively I think the Jets may rely on the passing game to set up the run and will be very effective in doing so. Prediction Jets 28-17
I would like to wish all of you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving. For those of you going to game, feel bring to some extra energy as I think this may be one of the smaller crowds of the year considering the holiday and potential poor weather.