Bengals Knock Jets Back Into Neutral
Last week was all about the thrill of victory over the hated Patriots, yesterday the Jets felt the cruel agony of defeat in Cincinnati.
The Jets got their butts whooped 49-9 and for the fourth straight time this season they followed a win with a loss and this seesaw style approach to wins and losses has the Jets at 4-4, right where they belong.
The Jets have already proven themselves to be much more formidable than the media and many fans expected, but they continually remind us not to get carried away with pronouncing them as serious contenders by turning around and losing every other week.
They started off the season with a win over the still winless Buccaneers and followed it up with a road loss against the Patriots, a game the Jets could have and maybe even should have won. Between the drops and dumb penalties the Jets were in position to win until Geno Smith walked into the Patriots trap and committed three turnovers sealing the loss. The rookie QB had shown flashes, but he wasn’t ready to dissect a Bill Belichick defense quite yet.
After the Jets beat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome people seemed so eager to write off the loss to the Titans as an aberration, problem is people were giving them too much credit for beating the Falcons. This isn’t the same Falcons team from the past few years, Roddy White has been hurt all season and while he played early in the game against the Jets he clearly wasn’t anywhere near 100 percent, Julio Jones got hurt at the end of the game and more importantly the Falcons no longer have a good offensive line or a pass rusher, as they let John Abraham walk in free agency.
The Jets shocked most NFL fans by winning a road game against the Falcons, but it shouldn’t have been a shock. Obviously the Jets deserve credit because the Georgia Dome is not an easy place to win a road game, but the truth is that game didn’t prove as much about the Jets as it proved how far the Falcons have fallen.
When the 0-4 Steelers came into town, with the Jets fresh off their win over the Falcons, fans and some media had already gotten carried away as they expected the Jets to breeze past the winless Steelers, but they overlooked some crucial mitigating factors.
The Steelers were coming off a 14 day break, Dick Lebeau is one of the greatest defensive minds this league has ever seen and has a dominate track record against rookie quarterbacks, give him 14 days to prepare and that rookie is going to struggle, whether it’s Geno Smith, Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning. And oh yeah, Ben Roethlisberger is still pretty damn good and their style of short underneath/crossing routes/screens is exactly the way teams have to beat the Jets defense.
Of course you know the Jets followed that loss by beating the Patriots, a huge win for the team and their fans, as Rex Ryan and Calvin Pace put it, “It was great that we finally finished against them.” It was a great Jet win and one the players should’ve have enjoyed for 24 hours and the fans for the entire week, but it wasn’t a win that should have launched them into the contenders discussion and yesterday proved why.
The Bengals have one of the best rosters in football (if you exclude quarterbacks they’re right up there with the Seahawks), they have tremendous balance on both sides of the ball. A great defensive line, excellent linebackers and good safety group (the corners took a hit with Leon Hall out but that won’t hurt them as much against teams without a true number one receiver) and on offense they have three really good receivers (one of them, A.J. Green, is in the discussion for second best receiver in the league), two quality tight ends, two quality complimenting running backs and one of the best offensive lines in football (especially in pass protection).
The only weak spot on the Bengals roster is their quarterback Andy Dalton, but he was anything but weak yesterday as he shredded the Jets secondary for 325 yards and five touchdowns.
You may not have known who Marvin Jones was before his eight catch, 122 yards and four touchdown performance yesterday, but ask anyone who scouted him before the 2012 draft while he was at the University of California, Berkeley and they’ll tell you it was only a matter of time before we saw a performance like that out of the second-year receiver.
Going into the game the Jets had a chance to beat the Bengals, after all the key is to stuff the running game and then force Dalton into making bad throws. The Jets stopped the Bengals running game, as expected, but Dalton came out firing as they followed the Steelers game plan. Short crossing routes, underneaths and out-routes to take chunks of yards and then hit them deep over the top and it worked to perfection as Dalton torched the Jets secondary and only three passes and 115 yard went to Green.
The Bengals are still a team that has consistency issues themselves, so it’s not like it’d be impossible to beat the Bengals on another day, but yesterday was not that day. If Dalton doesn’t play like a weak link the Bengals would beat the Jets eight out of 10 times.
With a ton of talent, albeit lacking in age and experience, they Jets have a promising foundation to build on for the future which is where everyone’s attention should be focused. Before the season there was not only talk about the Jets being the worst team in football, or a “glorified expansion team,” but also a focus on rebuilding and preparing to clear the shelves in the offseason.
Rebuilding is seen as a dirty word of sorts by fans, but the NFL is different than other sports and in the NFL you can rebuild and compete at the same time.
While it’s unlikely the Jets actually get a playoff spot this year (unless they start stringing multiple wins together), they will probably be within reach of that last Wildcard spot until the last week or two of the season, but unlikely to make the cut. For a team that everyone expected to have the worst record in the league and is stocked with cheap, young talent, has a lot of money coming off the books this offseason to acquire free agents and a bunch of draft picks to continue upgrading the talent through the draft, the foundation is there.
A couple of perfect free agent signings and draft pick selections (receiver, tight end, safety, outside linebacker and offensive line) and next year this team will be ready to compete with the rest of the league.
But for now, the Jets just aren’t on that top level and that’s okay. It’s hard to take a long term view in the moment, but considering what even the most optimistic Jet fan’s expectations were it’s hard to be too disappointed. The Jets simply aren’t ready to compete with the elite teams in this league, but give John Idzik another offseason to eliminate the dead money from the cap and continue to build on the talent that is already here and that’s when the expectations should rise.
“We know we haven’t arrived, we know that. And we know that we’re a team that has to keep developing and has to get better.” Ryan said, “Obviously we take a giant step back today, but part of that credit has to go to Cincinnati. They’re way ahead of us right now and that’s pretty obvious.”
This doesn’t mean the Jets can’t beat the Saints next week, although it certainly won’t be easy, but it shows the Jets can’t be considered serious contenders unless they can start taring off multiple wins and beating some of the better teams in the league. The Jets are good enough to beat the bad teams as well as the average to sometimes good teams (luckily for them the last seven games are against bad to sometimes good teams), but until they can beat the elites they will remain a pleasant surprise at times, but also extremely frustrating. That’s just life in the NFL with a young roster being led by a rookie quarterback.
But if you look at this team and each game with an eye on next year the promise is real and that’s something worth getting excited about.