JETS-BENGALS PREVIEW: Win and they’re in

It’s do or die.

After watching their once promising season slip away with every Mark Sanchez interception and special teams breakdown, the New York Jets, on their ninth live, get a chance to salvage their tumultuous 2009 season.

An ever-important ninth win Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals would secure a playoff berth for Gang Green, something that appeared out of the question two weeks ago and yet almost a certainty following a 3-0 start, back in September.

It's do or die for Braylon Edwards and the New York Jets who just need a win Sunday night to secure a trip to the postseason (JetsInsider.com Photo)

The Jets look to give a proper sendoff to Giants Stadium, the building the team has called home since 1984.  They look to have a polar opposite performance of their co-tenants, the New York Giants, who were eliminated from playoff contention in their final game at the stadium a week ago, falling to the Carolina Panthers, 41-9.

Their opponent is surely a formidable one.  Led by the re-emergence of running back Cedric Benson and one of the AFC’s stingiest defensive units, the 10-5 Cincinnati Bengals once again find themselves approaching a possible playoff run.

It has been an emotional season for Marvin Lewis’s group, who have enjoyed their most successful season in five years, despite tragic distractions.   Back in October, the team mourned for loss of Vikki Zimmer, the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.    Zimmer passed away of natural causes.

Then, two weeks ago, WR Chris Henry tragically died following an auto accident in Charlotte, North Carolina.  News of Henry’s passing resonated throughout the country and the league.   Henry was seen as one of the polarizing figures of the Bengals’ locker room, a man who was on his way to turning his life around following a number of legal transgressions back in 2008.

Cincinnatti receiver Chad Ochocinco was hit hard by the loss of Henry.   “For one, I’m feeling the most pain besides his family dealing with Chris’ situation,” he said.  “(He) was one of my best friends on the team.  (He was) one of those people I took under my wing and I’ve seen him through the bad, the good and I’ve seen all the positives that he’s done up until that point before we lost him.  It hurt.  Everything from this point on after losing Chris is dedicated to him, including this run at the Super Bowl.  It’s been hard.”

“Everybody grieves and mourns differently so I’m not sure how the rest of my teammates are taking it.  Being able to focus and be a professional which is one of the things that Coach (Marvin) Lewis continues to reiterate in this time of our loss has been a real big help.  I’m doing the best I can.”

“Doing the best they can” is something the Bengals vow to do on Sunday, as they have the chance to take on the role of spoiler for the New York Jets.   With their playoff position all but locked up, it is believed that head coach Marvin Lewis will indeed give his starters for Sunday’s game, alleviating the risk of injury in preparation for the playoffs.

That shouldn’t alter the gameplan of Rex Ryan’s group, who must come out and do what they’ve done all season; run the football and defend.   New York should look to mirror what they did last week against Indianapolis.   QB Mark Sanchez should be limited to check-downs and short passes, while grinding it out with the running backs.   The Jets can absolutely not afford Sanchez to be airing out deep-balls into double coverage, trying to beating Cincinnati all by himself.

Safe may not be sexy, but it will get the job done.   If the Jets are safe and smart with their offensive gameplan on Sunday, they’ll live to face Cincinnati again next week, in the postseason.

If not, they’ll only have themselves to blame.   Over the past two weeks, the Jets have gotten a wealth of assistance from other teams, giving a pulse to a season that should be over by now.   Now it’s finally time for them to take care of their own business.

Prediction

History points to a Jets loss, as do the majority of the Gang Green faithful.   Theoretically, Sunday night has all the ingredients for a major letdown: a home game, national television, a must-win game, an opponent that doesn’t need the game nearly as much as the Jets do.  But these aren’t your grandfather’s Jets…or even your older brother’s.

Darrelle Revis locks up Ochocinco for the few series he plays.  Marvin Lewis rests his starters in the second half.   Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene ground and pound just enough yardage against the stout Cincy defense.   The Jets weird, unprecedented and unpredictable 2009 campaign continues with a victory Sunday night against Cincy, propelling Gang Green into the postseason:  Jets 20 – Bengals 7

INSIDER TIDBITS

Matchup history

The Jets have had a great amount of success against the Bengals, throughout the years.   The two teams meet for the 21st time on Sunday, with Gang Green leading the all-time series, 13-7.

If the Jets do pull out a victory on Sunday, they would most likely meet Cincy again, in the first round of the playoffs.  New York also leads the all-time playoff series, 1-0.   The only postseason meeting between the two teams came in the first round of the 1982 AFC Playoffs.   The Jets went into Riverfront Stadium and blew out the Bengals, 44-17, eventually reaching the AFC title game, where they would fall to the Miami Dolphins.

Last time they met…

Gang Green, despite three turnovers from QB Brett Favre, rolled to a 26-14 victory over Cincinnati at the Meadowlands, last October.   That afternoon, the Jets defense limited the Bengals’ receiving tandem of Chad Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a paltry 106 yards and no touchdowns.   RB Thomas Jones led the Jets with two touchdowns on the ground, and one receiving TD.

Numbers game

Jets offense:  20.7 points per game (17th in NFL), 321.1 yards of total offense (21st), 154.5 passing yards per game (30th), 166.6 rushing yards per game (1st).

Bengals defense:  16.9 points allowed per game (5th), 300.1 yards allowed per game (4th), 212.4 passing yards allowed per game (14th), 87.7 rushing yards per game (2nd).

Bengals offense: 20.3 points per game (18th), 324.9 yards of total offense per game (20th), 192.7 passing yards per game (22nd), 132.3 rushing yards per game (6th).

Jets defense:  15.7 points allowed per game (1st), 264.3 yards allowed per game (1st), 163.9 passing yards allowed per game (1st), 100.4 rushing yards allowed per game (9th).

Injury report

Through Wednesday, corners Donald Strickland (quad) and Darrelle Revis (illness) have missed practice time this week for New York.  Strickland will most likely be listed as questionable for Sunday, while Revis is all but certain to be ready.

Cincinnati will be without rookie LB Rey Maualuga, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a broken ankle.  S Chris Crocker (ankle), DE Robert Geathers (knee), and DT Tank Johnson (foot) have missed practice time this week.   Their status for Sunday remains up in the air at this time.

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