QB Carson Palmer and his Bengals will be no pushovers for the Jets this coming Sunday. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The showdown this week is a battle of two teams who had high expectations before the season started and have horribly underperformed. The Jets and Bengals both sit with one win and are desperate to turn their season around.
Like the Jets, the 1-4 Bengals, last in the AFC North, are hoping that a win would give them an ounce of hope. After opening their season with a win against Baltimore in Week One, Cincy fell into a four-game losing streak. Last week, the Bengals fell to Kansas City 27-20.
Similar to the previous week against Philadelphia, the Jets will go up against another team struggling to get their season together. And just like last week, which resulted in a loss to the Eagles, the task will not be an easy one. Despite their troubles, Cincinnati has the fourth-ranked offense in the league, with 267 yards per game. With the likes of Carson Palmer at quarterback, Rudi Johnson in the backfield, and the one-two punch of Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson and T.J. “Who’s-Your-Momma” Houshmandzadeh at wide-out, the Jets clearly have their work cut out for them.
“When you look at this team, it’s explosive,” said head coach Eric Mangini. “It’s explosive in terms of [Palmer] and his ability to make every throw across the field. He can do anything in terms of getting the ball to his receivers, and he’s got an excellent group to. [When you] complement that with Rudi, the running game, and the things he can do, it makes it a difficult group to defend.”
Over in New York, the offense is a gaping mess. Both aspects of the offensive attack have been very inconsistent, as it was the case last week against Philly. When the running game found its groove, the passing didn’t factor at all. For most of the season, it was vice versa. Throw in the current quarterback controversy between Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens, and you are looking at a Category 5 disaster.
The right time for the Jets offense to get out of their funk and to get the run and pass going simultaneously would have to be now against Cincinnati’s defense. Although hampered by injuries to key players, the Bengals rank 30th in team defense, allowing an average of 393.2 yards per game. The Jets, though, don’t see it that way entirely.
Pennington said: “They do a good job of finding different ways to put pressure on the quarterback and they are turnover-driven. If you look at their statistics they're really good at creating turnovers, creating havoc and causing a lot of disruption.”
Originally thought to be contenders in their respective divisions, these two teams are now living in obscurity thanks in part to their unsightly performances. As of right now, victory, and nothing else, is the only option for New York and Cincinnati. Both will do battle at Paul Brown Stadium and give everything they got in order to triumph. So once again, hunger is the theme of the game as these two underachieving teams square off looking to add to their win column.
“We are two hungry teams looking for a win,” said WR Jerricho Cotchery. “Guys are trying to get a win this weekend. They won’t accept anything else.”
KEYS TO VICTORY
Offense: Last week, the Jets finally got a consistent running game with Thomas Jones rushing for 130 yards. However, the passing game was anemic, as Chad Pennington threw for only 128 yards and an interception. What the Jets need to do is to get both clicking in harmony, and this week may be a perfect time to do so. Injuries to some key players have hurt the Bengals defense, which is one of the worst in the NFL. If the offense can get the ground and air attacks going together and keep them consistent, the Jets will have no problem getting the win.
Defense: Four words: No more bad tackles. Poor tackling was what cost the Jets long touchdowns in the previous two games. And going up against the likes of Houshmandzadeh and C. Johnson, Gang Green can ill afford to make those kinds of mistakes. Stalling Cincy’s explosive passing attack is a must, and so is bringing Rudi Johnson for a halt. Although he has been hampered by an injured hamstring, the task is still easier said than done.
PREDICTION: Expect the game to be a high-scoring affair as both defenses are coming in ranking near the bottom of the league (Jets 28th, Bengals 30th). With the resurrection of the running game for the Jets last week, they will finally get that and the passing attack clicking in a high-scoring yet close match.
Final Score: Jets 30, Bengals 27
This Sunday’s match-up provides a lot of connections between the Jets and Bengals. While there are no former Bengals playing for the New York, Gang Green will meet a familiar face in LB Anthony Schlegel. The former Ohio State standout was drafted by New York in the third round of last year’s draft, but was cut before the start of this season. Cincinnati immediately picked him up afterwards.
Former teammates will reunite, especially in the case of the Bengals’ Dexter Jackson, where he will meet with two current Jets whom he used to call teammates. Jackson played alongside FB Darian Barnes in Tampa Bay in the 2002 season. He also played with David Barrett in Arizona for one year in 2003, and Anthony Clement for two years in ’03 and ’04 with the Cardinals.
Sunday’s game also means that there will be a huge Buckeye presence on the field. New York’s Mike Nugent, Adrien Clarke and Nick Mangold and Cincinnati’s Schlegel and Alex Stepanovich spent their collegiate careers at THE Ohio State University.
An even bigger connection is one between Mangini and the Bengals’ coaching staff. He and Marvin Lewis spent the 1996 season together on Ted Marchibroda’s coaching staff with the Ravens. This was Lewis’ first year as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, and Mangini’s last year there as offensive assistant. Coach Mangini worked with Cincinnati wide receivers coach Mike Sheppard and Jerry Simmons, the uncle of Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons. Cincy’s defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan was also a colleague of Mangini’s during their days in Cleveland.
“It’s nice to work against guys like this who I know so well and respect so much,” Mangini said. “It’s like working against [Cleveland head coach] Romeo [Crennell] or any of those situations.”
This will be the 19th regular season meeting between the Jets and Bengals. Gang Green has the upper hand in this head-to-head series, sporting a 12-6 record and a five game win streak against Cincinnati. The Jets also have the edge in their only postseason meeting, a 44-17 victory in 1982. In 2004, the last time the two teams met, New York was victorious over Cincy 31-24. This will be the Jets’ first visit to the Queen City since 1997.
From Contenders to Pretenders
Prior to the start of this season, both New York and Cincinnati had expectations on their shoulders because of their recent successes. The Jets, of course, came off a surprise last season that led to a Wild Card berth. The Bengals, for a long time the doormats of the NFL, made a return to respectability in its previous seasons under the watch of Marvin Lewis. Both had a lot of good going for them, so you would expect them to build on their achievements further, right? Not really.
Instead, they both are a combined 2-9 on the season, mired by inconsistency and an array of other problems. For that, both head coaches are taking heat from the fans and the media. When asked about taking a step backwards after that kind of success in Wednesday’s press conference, Coach Mangini simply spoke about the unpredictability that can occur in the NFL.
“Each year I've been a part of the NFL, the seasons have been unique and there is a volume of change between personnel, coaching staff and opponents,” he explained. “As you move into the next season, it's not always within the context of the last season.
“There's just a different set of circumstances that you have to deal with and it is completely unique. You draw on the experiences and try to learn from them. You try to build on the things you did positively, but it's never going to be the same as the previous year.”
Some Jets players will experience a homecoming when they head into Paul Brown Stadium. Nick Mangold and Mike Nugent are natives of Centerville, which is 50 miles from Cincinnati. Other Ohio natives on the Jets squad include S Eric Smith (Groveport, 109 miles), QB/WR Brad Smith (Liberty, 62 miles), and LG Adrien Clarke (Shaker Heights, 251 miles).
This game brings much more significance to Mangold.
“I grew up a Bengals fan,” he said. “It was about a 40-minute drive from my house to the middle of Cincinnati. I pretty much grew up a Bengals fan.”
Mangold mentioned that his favorite Bengals were Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson and Boomer Esiason, and made it known that he had aspirations of being a quarterback, until realizing at a young age that he wasn’t able to do so.
Limited Participation in Practice: TE Chris Baker (back), WR Laveranues Coles (calf), DL Shaun Ellis (foot), QB Chad Pennington (ankle), DL Dewayne Robertson (knee), DB Eric Smith (thigh)
Full Participation in Practice: DL Eric Hicks (knee), TE Jason Pociask (back)
Did Not Participate in Practice: LB Ahmad Brooks (groin), WR Antonio Chatman (hamstring), WR Chad Johnson (ankle), RB Rudi Johnson (hamstring), LB Corey Mays (hamstring), LB Caleb Miller (back)
Limited Participation in Practice: OT Willie Anderson (knee), S Dexter Jackson (knee), TE Reggie Kelly (ankle), CB Deltha O’Neal (back)
Full Participation in Practice: LB Rashad Jeanty (shin), DE Jonathan Fanene (knee), S Madieu Williams (back)