The Cincinnati Bengals will play the New York Jets on Sunday (Game set for 8:20pm) but winning for the Bengals is not all that important since they have already clinched a playoff birth. The Jets, with a win, would hold on to a wild card spot and (ironically) play the Bengals again in the first round of the playoffs. If I were the Bengals, I would rest my players and lose to the Jets. Marvin Lewis has been the Bengals coach for years and should have the power and trust in his players to do so.
Although I am a Jets fan (you can stop reading now or hear me out), I am writing as if I were Bengals fan. This game has much more meaning for the Jets since it is not only a playoff-deciding game, but it is also the last game at the Meadowlands. These two factors will have the Jets pumped up and ready to (at the very least) leave everything on the field, since it is a win or go home situation.
If I am Marvin Lewis, I do not want to risk Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco and other impact players to injuries, just for pride. Lewis could allow OchoCinco to score a touchdown and do his celebrations before sitting him. As I said, the Jets are going to be playing hard and their defense is one of the fiercest, most physical defenses in the league. Yes, the Bengals would play the Jets in the playoffs but the other teams that could make the playoffs instead of the Jets (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Denver and Texans) have strong defenses and stronger offenses.
If I were Marvin Lewis, I would let the Jets win for the simple fact that it gives them the ability to relax. They would not have to have scouting reports for the Jets, Denver, Texans, Ravens or Pittsburgh if they lost. They could have already started scouting the Jets and would have two weeks to scout them. The Jets would be playing all their starters and the Bengals would be able to study the Jets during the game. Also, the fact that it's home for the Jets makes it easier for Lewis to bench his starters. Hey, if Jim Caldwell (first year coach) can bench his starters at home , Marvin Lewis can bench his starters away .
If Marvin Lewis goes for the win, it would be a huge risk to the team. If Lewis decides to leave his starters in for the game and they lose, the loss would jeopardize the players confidence. The Bengals would not be nearly as confident against the Jets if they lost the past week with their starters in the game. Losing gives the Bengals the ability to rest, more time to scout the Jets and an excuse to lose. Excuses never justify the case fully but losing with your starters is more meaningful than losing without them. This goes to another level since the Bengals would be playing the Jets again.
This might be wishful thinking but I believe I have a point. If the Jets talent level was immensely larger than the other teams that could make the playoffs, I would not suggest resting their starters and losing the game. The Jets were in a similar situation against the Raiders in 2001, where the Jets beat the Raiders to clinch a playoff birth, then lost to them in a rematch in the first round.