It’s funny. Ironic even. The New York Jets find themselves in a situation similar to the one the Cincinnati Bengals found themselves in just two years ago. A rookie quarterback, overhauling parts of the roster, and suddenly finding yourself, come mid-season, miraculously in the thick of things.
And like the season for the Bengals two years ago, the Jets season has no longer become about staying afloat of the doubters. Indeed, the playoffs don’t seem quite as distant as they did at the beginning of the season in the big apple.
With Miami and New England playing each other this week, a win against the Bengals would give the Jets a nice foot-hold in the AFC East. As it stands before Sunday’s games, the Jets find themselves only one game behind the Patriots after beating them last week.
On the other side, with the Browns headed to Arrowhead and Baltimore on a bye week, Sunday’s game against the Jets presents the Cincinnati Bengals with the perfect opportunity to widen the gap in the AFC North.
Moving to the foreground of the matchup this week, this game actually looks a lot closer than some might expect. In fact, the statistics are eerily similar.
Per CBS Sports, the strength of both teams looks to be the defense on paper. The Bengals are ranked No. 9 defensively while the Jets are ranked No. 4. Both teams are also statistically better against the run, with the Bengals ranked No. 8 against it, and the Jets being good enough for second in the league.
Offensively, both teams have shown the ability to make big plays. And for both teams, that big play usually comes through the air. Andy Dalton has recently found his stride throwing the ball over the middle of the field, as he has passed for an average of 354 yards over his last two games, including six touchdowns.
While the strength of the Bengals offense has been the passing game, the Jets rely on a downhill running game to control the clock and set up their rookie quarterback. The Bengals will need to be careful not to get caught playing the run too much though, as Geno Smith has the deep threats to hurt a battered Cincinnati secondary.
The game will ultimately come down to the battles in the trenches for both teams. The Bengals’ offensive line is regarded as one of the top in the league, but the Jets D-line will pose a serious threat to the men guarding Dalton. New York’s line boasts three of the top defensive linemen in the NFL and they are always hungry to get after the quarterback.
However, the Bengals defensive line has the same hunger. Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, and Domata Peko are one of the NFL’s best four-man fronts, and each can help spear-head a potent rush attack in any given game.
Here’s three reasons why the Bengals will win:
1. As both defensive lines are very solid, the running game will likely struggle to get going for both teams. Thus, the game may come down to Andy Dalton vs. Geno Smith, and who has more time in the pocket. If it comes down to ability to throw, I like Dalton in the matchup.
2. Marvin Jones is catching fire for the Bengals after posting four key catches last week against the Lions. At least two of the catches were third down conversions and another was a highlight touchdown catch.
3. The Jets have had trouble defending the middle of the field, and the Bengals have two tight ends that can cause a lot of damage, if given the chance. Looking at the receivers and cornerbacks, Cromartie has been battling injuries this season but will still likely be given the assignment to cover A.J. Green. If Green can expose Cromartie’s weakness in that respect, the Jets secondary could be in for a long day.
The Bengals are 3-0 at home and the game was recently declared a sellout. Although the reasons above give Cincinnati an edge to go 4-0 at Paul Brown Stadium, I can’t see the game getting out of hand for New York. This isn’t the old Jets team that we’re talking about, and the new faces are making names for themselves.
Prediction: Bengals 24, Jets 20