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Most Likely Playoff Scenario: Jets at Bengals

As the aftermath from Sunday’s games was being analyzed by the talking heads throughout the league, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was understandably evasive in answering questions regarding how he’ll approach the final regular season game at the Jets.  “It will be another Sunday for us,” Lewis said. “I’ll make those adjustments later in the week, and as we go. We’re going to approach it as a game we need to win.” 

So…which is it?  Will it be just another work week with a win being the ultimate goal, or will the Bengals possibly rest starters in preparation for the playoffs? 

Apparently, the answer is yes to both questions.  Such double-speak is normally seen on Capitol Hill. Your local Senator would be proud.  Every Bengals beat writer knows that nailing down a straight answer from Lewis is a challenge even in stillness of the offseason.  At this point in the year, with what’s at stake, the KGB couldn’t torture one out of him.  Can’t blame the guy. 

Thus, we’re forced to speculate on the Bengals’ likely motives. 

In looking at the current AFC playoff race, all four division winners have been decided.  The top two seeds are settled.  All that’s left to determine is who will the two wildcard participants be, and which one will the Bengals face?  Seven teams remain in the hunt for these final two spots (Baltimore, the Jets, Denver, Houston, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Jacksonville). Practically speaking, however, it’s a four horse race, with two teams clearly in the driver’s seat in the Ravens and the Jets.  If they win, they’re in.  They control their destinies.  The others need a win and help, with Pittsburgh and Denver having the most realistic shot if the Ravens or Jets falter.  The Ravens should handle Oakland and lock up one spot.  Assuming that happens, the Bengals will take the field in Jersey with the knowledge that if they lose, they’ll get the Jets again  the following week in Cincinnati. 

I say take it. 

The fact is that the Jets are the best scenario for the Bengals.  The Bengals match-up well against gang green, with the Jets built similar to the other AFC North teams the Bengals have learned to beat.  Besides, allowing starters to rest and injured players to heal is more important than winning what amounts to a meaningless game.  

Tactically speaking, it would be difficult for the Jets to prepare for the playoffs with the Bengals if Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson, and Chad Ochocinco took most of the game off.  The Bengals would be able to experiment with alignments and formations and player personnel groupings.  They’d be able to see how the Jets line up and respond in situations created for the tape.  While the Jets would be playing all out for their playoff lives, the Bengals could use it as a glorified scrimmage. 

Besides, from a mathematical perspective, it would be very difficult for the Jets to beat the Bengals twice in a row in back-to-back weeks. 

Take the night off.  It just makes sense. 

If Cincinnati wins, it gets very complicated.  Depending upon earlier games, they could face the Ravens, Steelers, or Broncos in the first round.  With a win, the Bengals could not only allow the hated Steelers into the playoff picture, but also ensure that an AFC North foe comes to Cincinnati.  As they line up for their 8:30 kick off, Steeler fans all over the country may suddenly be Bengal fans.

 All the more reason to take the night off. 

Sure some will argue that an 11-5 record is worth fighting for.  Some will say that it’s important to try to win a game at The Meadowlands before it gets put into mothballs (the Bengals have never won there against either the Giants or the Jets).  Throwing the game will no doubt disappoint rabid fans and annoy NBC and NFL executives. 

But who cares? 

The ultimate goal is a championship.  There is no perfect season to preserve, and no better seeding worth fighting for.  To be practical, resting starters next week and preparing for a playoff game against the Jets is the right move.  It’s the most logical decision, and the best odds. 

I expect through all the cloak and dagger and smoke and mirrors coming from Marvin Lewis’ podium, the Bengals will realize that.

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2 Responses to “Most Likely Playoff Scenario: Jets at Bengals”

  1. high fivers says:

    This is all assuming that the Patriots beat the Texans. Otherwise the Bengals would be fighting for the #3 seed, a fight worth fighting. If they get #3, then they face the #6 seeded wildcard team, which might be a favorable matchup depending on who wins the games earlier in the day. Although the Jets would still probably be the best opponent for them in the post-season.

  2. docholliday says:

    With the #3 seed, they’ll get Baltimore or maybe Pittsburgh. If the Jets are the best matchup, then the seeding doesn’t matter.

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