This is going to be the first in an 11 part series – one for each game of the NFL playoffs. Bryan took care of the predictions, no matter how much I disagree with them. I’ll leave those alone and just do a game by game preview. This one is obviously about the Jets/Bengals game, which makes sense, seeing as it’s the first game of the postseason.
I want to start this one by saying that I believe this will be a ridiculously close and hard fought game. Don’t let last week’s game fool you. The Bengals weren’t about to tip their hand to the team that they would likely be playing in the playoffs the very next week. The Jets crushed the Bengals 37 to 0, but as I said, I think the Bengals were holding back quite a bit. Starting running back, Cedric Benson, didn’t even play.
This time around I expect the Bengals to put up a much bigger fight against the Jets. I would think both Cedric Benson and Chad Ochocinco will have a TD each but both have sub-100 yard days, and Carson Palmer will have an underwhelming performance with less than 200 yards and only one touchdown and probably a pick, giving him a passer rating in the 70s.
The Jets will pound the ball with Thomas Jones, who should be able to pick up over four yards per carry due to the fact that the interior of the Bengals defense is it’s weakest spot. If Jones can get around 4.5 yards per carry then that will take a lot of the pressure off of rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez, who will probably throw at least one interception. The Jets will look to keep Sanchez attempts to about 20, and will game plan to make his first ever playoff start a little easier.
The Bengals will try to counter this by stacking the box with eight men -sometimes maybe even nine- and bring heavy blitzes often in an attempt to slow the Jets run game, make Sanchez nervous and force him to be the one to beat them. Look for the Bengals to leave their two corners, Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall, in man coverage for a large majority of the game. Both are severely underrated players and will make Sanchez fit the ball into tight holes rather than the windows that zone coverage can allow.
The Jets may try to take some shots deep down field early to Braylon Edwards to get the Bengals to back off a little bit, which will open up more running room for Thomas Jones.
On the other side of things the Jets have cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has arguably been the best corner in football this year. He will be on Chad Ochocinco, who had an injured knee last week, but should be at full strength today. This should be a really fun matchup to watch. One of the biggest factors in this game will be the Bengals ability (or inability) to handle the Jets blitz packages. Cincinnati has struggled recently with picking up the blitz, they will need to set up the screen game to help out in this area. They may also look to some quick three-step drops to get the ball out faster, but this may not give the receivers enough time to get open, especially with Revis being on the other side of the ball.
If the Bengals ability to stop/counter the blitzing Jets isn’t the biggest factor in the game then it’s only because of the special teams. The field position battle in this game will be key for both teams, and that is primarily dictated by the play on special teams. The Bengals have been shaky in the kicking game over the past couple of weeks. They’ve had bad snaps, bad holds, and bad coverage. Look for them to be more conservative with kicks to the corners, and limiting the big-play potential that the Jets have with their return game.
I think the Jets succeed with blitzing, and win the special teams battle. The Bengals will give the Jets offense a hard time with that many men in the box and taking advantage of a rookie quarterback, and as I said at the very beginning this will be an extremely close game.
Jets win it 21 to 20.
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