The Back Story
These teams have a lot in common.
Neither team has a “playoff experience” advantage.
Since 1990, the word “winning” itself has been foreign to Bengal players, while the Jets start a rookie quarterback.
Both teams feature starting running backs who are cast aways from Chicago. Thomas Jones was released by the Bears to feature a fourth overall pick named Cedric Benson. Jones would land in New York, while Benson underperformed and was shipped off to Cincinnati where his career has been revived.
Both quarterbacks, Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez, are former Heisman trophy winners out of the University of Southern California.
The irony here is that neither team has excelled with a passing attack. The Bengals rank 26th in passing yards per game, while the Jets ranked 31st during the regular season.
Strangely, it is a reliance on the discarded runners that has been the crux of both offenses. The Bengals rank ninth in rush offense and the Jets are No. 1 overall in the NFL.
While the Jets boast the NFL’s leading defense, are eighth in run defense, while the Bengals are seventh.
Oddly enough, both teams rank in the bottom half of the league in sacks of opposing quarterbacks.
The popular matchup here is Jets corner Darrelle Revis against Chad Ocho Cinco. However, it is likely the No. 3 receiver for Cincinnati, Andre Caldwell, will be the ultimate wildcard here.
Opposite Revis is athletically gifted, longtime Eagle, Lito Sheppard. Sheppard’s coverage skills are on par with a high standard. Yet, his tackling leaves something to be desired, and the Bengals could send their powerful backs in the direction of the 194-pound Sheppard.
New York nickel back Dwight Lowery is sure to be challenged by the Bengals when they run multiple receiver sets.
The Bengals will look to exploit the linebacker heavy 3-4 with a passing attack that may force the Jets into their nickel package. In this case, the Bengals hit Caldwell in one-on-one matchups with Lowery.
If early passing success drops the Jets into a soft zone out of their base 3-4, the Bengals can hand the ball off to Benson.
Although, the most common strategy of the 3-4 is blitz and Cincinnati can combat this with screen passes, delayed handoffs, and again, using their slot receiver.
In the story of the run game, the Bengals have a distinct advantage.
Outside linebacker Calvin Pace came to New York from the Cardinals two years ago and as a pass-rush specialist, the converted defensive end has great up-field movement in pursuit of the quarterback, but lacks ideal pursuit speed and lateral movement. With eight sacks on the year, he has only 55 tackles.
To hold Benson in check and force Palmer to win the game with his arm, the Jets have to have big games from their middle linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris.
Look for the Bengals to run to the left, away from talented Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis and toward Calvin Pace and Lito Sheppard.
While the Jets are the league's second-worst pass offense, Sanchez will need to challenge the Cincinnati safeties and hit at least two big pass plays for the Jets to have a chance.
Acquired from the Browns during the season, Braylon Edwards finally gave Sanchez a deep-ball weapon. However, talented corner Leon Hall is sure to be locked onto Edwards.
However, if the Bengals play any deep zone, look for Edwards to beat free safety Chris Crocker and get behind strong safety Chinedum Ndukwe who may creep up for run support.
The Bengals are in a position to stick to their game plan, run first, pass second. The two elements of the offense can work in partnership as the Bengals will use a between the tackles run game paired with some three wide-receiver sets to get the Jets defense spread out by the second half.
New York must play outside of its comfort zone and beat the Bengals through the air. Sanchez does not have to put up huge numbers, but he does have to deliver some big plays.