Where Each Team Is
The Jets continue their up-and-down year of exceeding expectations followed immediately by disappointing lethargic performances, namely on offense. The defense has been more consistent, although the secondary appears to have taken a big step backward from last season. The Jets can either legitimize themselves as a contender in the 2013-14 season with a win today or keep on trucking as the enigma they are with a loss. The Jets are about as reliable as a Ford Escort with over 250k miles on it. That's not to say the Jets cannot win or even build a streak, but there appears to be no consistency from game to game.
The Bengals are having another good year so far and have a firm control over their division, although the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers are all still within striking distance of the Bengals win record, and Cincinnati is historically known as one of the worse teams down the stretch when it comes to closing the season strong. Andy Dalton's largely average QB play has been complimented by a talented roster, much like the erratic play of Geno Smith.
Rex Ryan has never lost to the Bengals as a head coach. Marvin Lewis has beaten the Jets once in his 11 year tenure at Cincinnati.
Random Fact: Vinny Testaverde has been quoted as saying that Corned Beef Hash tastes and looks like dog food. I don't let that stop me from eating it.
Sister Site: Cincy Jungle
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Field: Open air, Synthetic Turf.
Weather: Partly Sunny with a high of 60 degrees. That's Fahrenheit for all you silly people living abroad.
Record: GGN writer Rich MacLeod, who may or may not be the Highlander, reports the Jets lead the all-time series, 17-7.
Who is favored? Opening line has the Bengals by 7 (boooooo). The Jets are 5-2 against the spread.
Random Fact: Andy Dalton totally looks like that kid you tormented in grade school. Now you're beginning to grow seriously concerned that you might have actually bullied Andy Dalton. People like you are the reason I have to sit through those lame Public Service Announcements in between watching reruns of Law and Order.
(Players designated "Probable" status are omitted)
Out: Santonio Holmes (WR) Hamstring.
It would be a critical loss if Mangold were to miss this game, but sources say he will play.
Questionable: Rex Burkhead (RB) Calf.
Random Fact: Cincinnati was once known as the "Paris of America", presumably because both places smell terrible.
Jets: On offense the Jets are 24th in points, 15th in overall yardage per game, 22nd in passing and 11th on the ground. The Jets remain one of the worst teams in scoring week-to-week but have steadily climbed five slots in the ranking since the game against the Atlanta Falcons. Overall, passing is not a strength of the Jets.
The Jets defense can be downright brutal to opposing offensive units. The Jets are 18th in points allowed (their only below average defensive ranking), 4th in total yards allowed, 10th against the pass and 2nd against the run. The Jets have consistently been a top-tier defense in overall and rushing yards allowed almost every week. Many would consider the Jets the hardest team to run against in the league.
Bengals: On offense the Bengals are 22nd in points scored (drawing comparisons to the Jets inability to find the end zone as well), 12th in total yardage, 9th in pass yards and 18th in rushing yards. This week the Jets will face a top ten passing offense, so Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, and Dee Milliner will all be challenged.
On defense, the Bengals are an impressive 7th in points allowed, 9th in overall yards allowed, 13th in passing yards allowed, and 8th against the run. The Bengals are no pushovers on defense, in fact in this regard they will be one of the most challenging teams the Jets face so far this year.
AP Pro ranking has the Jets ranked 13th and the Bengals ranked 8th.
Random Fact: Did you know that if you flip a turtle over on its back, you're a jerk? (Credit to GGN member SioneBAAOOOHA for this random fact. Submit your random facts to @JeffreyJParks on Twitter or via email, or just post them in the Thread About Nothing for a chance to win prizes I'll probably never send you. User SioneBAAOOOHA has won a half-empty Jets Bic(TM) lighter that I don't think I can legally mail to him, so he has to come pick it up at my residence. It's in my basement. In my pants.)
Attacking the Bengals
Although the Bengals run defense is not unstoppable (The Jets run D is better), it is well above average and may very well contain the Jets otherwise powerful rushing attack. The Bengals are equally tough at giving up points and in the red zone. Every facet of the Bengals defense is consistently above average. If the Jets fantastic front seven limits Cincinnati's offense like it has so many others, this could shape up to be a very slow paced and low scoring game.
That said, the weight falls on the shoulders of Geno Smith to keep pace with a superior offense. Smith has to spread the ball around and stay largely mistake free to win this game, because Powell and Ivory alone will not get the job done against this defense.
Antonio Cromartie will have what is potentially his greatest challenge of the season opposite standout receiver AJ Green, who is both statistically and situationally one of the NFL's greatest WR talents, far and away. Cromartie has consistently under-performed the entire season so far and is getting beat deep. Although it is unreasonable to ask most cornerbacks to live up to the top-tier season he had last year, Cro MUST turn things around starting this afternoon, or Green and Dalton will feast on the Jets secondary all day.
Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory will have their plates full trying to keep the Bengals well-above-average defense honest. The Bengals strength is all up front, especially with the aforementioned loss of Leon Hall in the secondary.
Bengals to Watch
A.J. Green and Geno Atkins are the heart and soul of the Bengals offense and defense, respectively. If the Jets can neutralize either or both of them, their chances of winning will drastically improve. Young CB Dre Kirkpatrick is a total unknown playing in the absence of the extremely talented but injured Leon Hall. Geno Smith has demonstrated an aptitude for exploiting banged up secondaries and the Jets will look to exploit any potential weaknesses through the air as they may struggle on the ground.
Bro's Bottom Line
This is either where the Jets turn the corner and become an above average team that truly has defied all offseason expectations, or where the team continues its murky trajectory that is frankly the definition of mediocre. The Jets are probably one of the first NFL teams to come to mind when you mention playing up or down to your opponent. Gang Green has demonstrated an ability to contain and defeat power offenses like the Falcons and Patriots, while falling to poorly performing but talented rosters like the Titans and Steelers.
The Jets will have to either have to break the Bengals solid run defense or attack through the air and hope the loss of Leon Hall tips the balance in their favor. Either way Geno Smith needs to use Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, and Jeff Cumberland effectively in order to outpace the Dalton-to-Green connection while the Jets attempt to contain them with their aggressive defense.
Andy Dalton has nearly doubled in production and accuracy over the last couple of games, while all but one of the Bengals wins resulted from their final possession of the game, very similar to the Smith-led Jets offense. The Bengals are simply not as good as their record suggests. This game could go either way.