The New York Jets (4-3) will begin week eight on Sunday in Cincinnati to face the Bengals (5-2). Coming off an impressive home victory last week over the evil empire, the Jets will look to take back-to-back games for the first time all season. Cincinnati is one of the hardest teams to get a grip on, beating the likes of Green Bay, New England, and Detroit this year but also looking lifeless in a loss against Cleveland and narrowly beating Buffalo. Keep your legs rested as we dive into a huge matchup.
The Bengals are loaded on both sides of the ball. The offense features one of the best wide receivers in the game in A.J. Green (43 receptions, 619 yards, five touchdowns) and plenty of compliments. Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert are second and third in receptions respectively and pose unique threats. You’ll see Eifert split more out wide while Gresham is featured more on the line of scrimmage. Both are very big, fast and athletic. Wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are both a handful to cover and even rookie running back Giovani Bernard has 25 receptions on the year.
Speaking of Bernard, himself and the law firm BenJarvus Green-Ellis make up one of the better running back duos in the NFL. While Cincinnati doesn’t have the best run blocking line, you have to respect the toughness Green-Ellis brings and the versatility and quickness Bernard has. They compliment each other well.
It all comes down to third year quarterback Andy Dalton. He has everything he needs to elevate his (and thus the teams) play. His offensive line is second in pass-block efficiency per ProFootballFocus.com and his weapons are second to none. Dalton is coming off a really impressive game against Detroit but his team has won more this season more in spite of him instead of because him. If Dalton can prove to be consistent the NFL will be in trouble.
This is another unit loaded with talent that might be under performing a little. The Bengals are ranked 16 in yards allowed per game and 26 on third down percentage. The front seven is pretty dominant with an even amount of play makers. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict leads the NFL in tackles (remember when he wasn’t strong enough to play in the NFL? Neither do I) and Ray Maualuga is a very solid middle linebacker. The defensive line has compiled 18 sacks and is lead by defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is an all-pro and his battery mate Domaka Peto is pretty good himself.
The secondary suffered a huge blow when cornerback Leon Hall tore his Achilles last week. No matter, safeties Reggie Nelson and George Iloka makes it tough to beat Cincy over the top and corners Adam Jones, Terrence Newman, and Dre Kirkpatrick can all make life difficult for receivers.
How To Win
So what Jets team are we going to get? As stated in the intro, the Jets are looking to win back-to-back games for the first time all year and the players know it. The Jets defensive line has their hands full again. They did a good job getting to Tom Brady (especially in the third quarter) last week and will need to keep that pressure up. Quinton Coples had a strip sack last week but needs to be way more consistent. He was largely nullified besides that. Getting to Dalton also means less big plays for A.J. Green. Antonio Cromartie was great last week and will have to be near perfect again.
Chris Ivory is a bruiser and showed that off in week seven and was consistently tough. Geno Smith was excellent again, routinely converting on third downs (more on that in a second), using his legs when needed, and spreading the wealth. Marty Mornhinweg’s game plan was excellent. The Jets took advantage of a banged up Patriots defense by getting big chunks at a time.
The Jets win last week stemmed from these two major factors: Third down conversions and field position. The Jets D held New England to 1-12 (!!!!) on third downs and went 11-21 themselves, including six receptions from Jeremy Kerley that extended scoring drives. The Jets special teams flipped field position, consistently holding New England deep into their own territory. Also, Josh Cribbs. How great is it having a real punt returner out there?
Time to get consistent now. Want to be considered real contenders? Win a tough road game. Mornhinweg has been extremely inconsistent in his game planning for the offense and that won’t fly on the road against a good defense.
There may not be a lot of Santonio Holmes fans out there, but I think he’ll be missed this week much like he was against Pittsburgh when receivers struggled to get separation. Jeff Cumberland did a very good job getting open last week but had two big drops. Cincinnati will likely make the Geno beat them, especially early, where I’m sure they’ll stack the box. Can Kerley, David Nelson, and Stephen Hill do enough? Only time will tell.