The Jets biggest challenge on Sunday will be corraling the Bengals' widouts. First and foremost, Chad Johnson.
When Jets head coach Eric Mangini opened his press conference yesterday, he carefully praised the virtues of Sunday's opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals.
"It's pretty easy to see the positive things that they do. They've lost to teams that have a combined record of 16 and 6. They scored the most points anybody has against the Giants (23), put them into overtime and played tough against Dallas in a tough situation. They got behind early, fought back, had a chance to come back and take the lead. I think that you see that throughout the course of all their games," Mangini said.
Combine Mangini's appraisal with the word "dangerous" and there you have the mantra in the Jets' locker room. There will be no overlooking the Bengals, who enter Sunday's showdown at the Meadowlands with an 0-5 record.
"They are a scary team to play against whether they are 0-5 or 5-0," wide receiver Laveranues Coles said. "They could just as well be 5-0 as they are 0-5. They are a very good football team."
The Jets have familiarized themselves with the Bengals' rough ride this season, which has them pitted at the bottom of the NFL along with the Lions, Rams and Texans. Throughout the week Mangini has noted that he "never gets caught up in the records" and several Jets players have insisted that records become meaningless once both teams step onto the field.
Cincinnat's struggles have come with injuries and subpar performances from key players such as wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco, but one of the league's toughest schedules is also to show for the winless record. The Bengals have lost to the Titans (5-0), Giants (4-0) and Cowboys (4-1).
As if the Bengals' luck has been rough enough, they are now dealing with an injury to their star quarterback, Carson Palmer. Palmer has been bothered by a sore right elbow, which forced him to sit out the team's Week Four loss to the Browns and has limited him in practice this week. In speaking yesterday at a press conference at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, Palmer insisted that the elbow did not affect him on any throws in last week's loss to Dallas, but he "didn't have the confidence I normally have."
Now, as Palmer prepares to face the Jets for the first time since Oct. 21 last season when Cincinnati defeated Gang Green 38-31 at home, he's noticed a change in the Jets' defense.
"They've gotten better," Palmer said. "I think they've started to understand and learn their scheme more and their philosophy of their coordinator more."
Despite the winless record, the Bengals still have their weapons on offense. Wide receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh ranks fourth in the NFL with 31 receptions and despite uncharistically low numbers from Ocho Cinco, the Bengals' wide receiver can turn into a game breaker at any time.
Thus, the Jets' defense will receive another big test this week. After allowing 83 total points in the last two contests, Mangini attributed the struggles to poor field position and what he termed "complimentary football."
Out: WR David Clowney (shoulder), K Mike Nugent (right thigh)
Did Not Participate: OT Damien Woody (illness)
Limited Participation: WR Laveranues Coles (thigh), NT Kris Jenkins (back), DB Justin Miller (foot)
Full Participation: WR Brad Smith (knee), P Reggie Hodges(left thigh)
Out: LB Corey Mays (ankle)
Did Not Participate: C Kyle Cook (toe), K Shayne Graham (right groin)
Limited Participation: S Dexter Jackson (thumb), OT Levi Jones (back), QB Carson Palmer (right elbow), DE Frostee Rucker (shoudler
Full Participation: LB Dhani Jones (foot), CB Jonathan Joseph (ankle), DT Pat Sims (thigh)
Jets 'O' v. Bengals 'D'
If there's one area where the Bengals have truly struggled, it's their defense. Through the first five games, Cincinnati has allowed an average on 338 yards per game and recorded just three total sacks. Combine those numbers with the measley two total interceptions and there is reasoning why the Bengals are still clawing for their first victory. Facing Brett Favre is always tough, but it's even more difficult after the Jets torched the Cardinals' offense for 56 points and then had an extra week to prepare for Cincinnati due to last Sunday's bye. After sputtering during the first weeks of the season, the Jets' offense may have hit the mark they envisioned when building the team this past offseason.
Jets 'D' v. Bengals 'O'
With Palmer banged-up and Ocho Cinco dropping numerous passes, this is not your same explosive Cincinnati offense from past years. Even though they still have the same personnel, the Bengals are averaging just 239 yards per game. With Rudi Johnson now in Detroit, Chris Perry assumed the role as their featured back, but he has been mired in inconsistency. Perry has averaged just 2.8 yards per rush and currently leads the NFL with five fumbles. If there's one strength for the Jets, it's their run defense. If the Bengals are unable to generate a steady run attack, they will be forced to rely moreso on the injured Palmer.
For the Bengals, Glenn Holt has dazzled on kickoffs, as he has averaged 27.1 yards per return. But what is most troubling about the Bengals' unit is the recent injury to kicker Shayne Graham. Graham, who is 9-for-10 on field goal attempts this season, was limited in practice today with an injury to his right groin. For the Jets, Jay Feely will again replace the injured-Nugent at kicker, while Reggie Hodges will make his Jets debut at punter. While the kicking situation appears even, Leon Washington gives the Jets the edge, with his game-breaking ability on punt returns.
The Bengals may be 0-5, but after watching them battle the Giants and Cowboys late, the Jets are aware of how dangerous Cincinnati can be. As long as Palmer is healthy enough to lead the Bengals, the offense has the firepower to put up points. However Favre will give the Jets the edge in this one. After posting 56 points on the Cardinals, he is gaining the chemistry he needs to turn the Jets' offense into one of the league's best.
Jets 28, Bengals 17
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