Six days have passed since the 37-0 drubbing of our Bengals, and as bad as that night was, things are looking decidedly better now.
For one thing, the game will be played at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati in front of a partisan Bengal crowd. The Bengals are 6-2 in Cincinnati this year. For another, they’ll have five starters back that were rested last week, all of whom figure to balance the scales in the rematch.
Returning defensive starters DT Domata Peko, DE Robert Geathers, and S Chris Crocker should improve the run defense that yielded 257 yards to the Jets last week. Peko is considered the best run-stuffing lineman on the team, Geathers is effective in edge responsibility, and Crocker is an aggressive safety in run support.
On offense, the return of leading rusher Cedric Benson should likewise improve the Bengals’ ability to run the ball. A healthy Chad Ochocinco and Andre Caldwell, both of whom had issues last week, should help the passing game along with the return of starting TE J.P. Foschi, another starter who sat out.
For the Jets, they will be who they are. They will want to run the ball as much as possible with RBs Thomas Jones, and Shonn Greene, with some wildcat from WR/KR Brad Smith. They will want to keep QB Mark Sanchez out of third-and-long situations, minimizing his attempts and protecting him against costly turnovers. On defense, they’ll want to shut down the Bengal rushing attack, and force Carson Palmer to throw against their pass rush. And they can win that way, even with the returning Bengal starters.
For the Bengals to win, they will need to be a bit more unpredictable on offense. They should attempt to throw more on first or second down, and take their downfield shots to loosen up the Jet safeties and defensive backs. Short-to-mid-range passing to Foschi, Caldwell, and WR Laveranues Coles should also help to open up the running lanes for Benson, RB Larry Johnson, and RB Brian Leonard. If they can get a lead early, they can force the Jets into more passing, which could lead to fewer rushing attempts and more predictable play-calling by Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Barring any substantial lead, the Bengals offense must, at a minimum, modify field position and control the ball for extended periods of time to allow the defense to stay fresh. No three-and-out’s allowed.
If they were innovative and aggressive they’d go with some no-huddle early on, but don’t count on it.
On defense, they’ll need to do a better job of shutting down the Jet rushing attack. The Jets should be fairly predictable on the early downs, so the key will be whether or not the defense can control the line of scrimmage and make tackles. If they can get the Jets into third-and-long, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer should be able to dial up blitzes and looks to confuse Sanchez and get off the field.
On special teams, the Bengals had some success last week with Bernard Scott and Quan Cosby in the return game. Scott had a 53 yard kick-off return, and Cosby had a 40 yard punt return, both of which put the offense in short-field situations. If the returners can repeat the performance, the offense should be able to capitalize.
The weather should have an effect on both teams, but the heated field at PBS should provide a much better surface than the “ice rink” last week in New Jersey.
Keys to the Game:
- Run Defense: The Bengals must contain the Jet running game from the opening drive.
- Throw Effectively Early: The Offense needs to spread the Jet defense out and make them respect the passing game.
- Third down efficiency on both sides of the ball: The offense needs to stay on the field, and the defense must get off the field
The Bengals are at home. They have five starters back. They have shown to follow bad performances with good ones all year. They have the revenge factor. Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco will want to redeem themselves in the playoffs. Mark Sanchez will be facing a hostile crowd in cold conditions in his first post-season appearance. If Karma means anything, the Bengals are due for their first post-season win in 19 years (longest streak in the NFL). They should be able to finish what they started in 2005, and win for Vicki Zimmer and Chris Henry. The Bengals in a close one, 23-21