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Jets at Bengals
Wild Card Playoff Game
With a few weeks remaining in the NFL season I broke down all of the teams I felt would be in the playoff picture. I took the last 6 weeks, at the time, and took a look at how teams were performing heading into the final 3 weeks of the season. I didn't look at the Jets, because, well, I didn't think they were going to make the playoffs. Surprise! Here they are.
As a result of breaking all of the other teams down, I felt there would be some strong plays at the conclusion of last weeks regular season, in this weeks Wild Card round. Specifically, I felt the Bengals were going to be a strong play. The article I am referring to appears here. At that time, the Bengals had yards per point numbers over the previous 6 weeks of 14.7 offensively and 20.4 defensively. The defensive numbers stood out as that put them at top of the pack defensively, no better place to be heading into the playoffs.
I commented that the Bengals would likely have trouble on the road in the playoffs, especially in a warm weather location, or in a dome, but also noted that this team was built to win a cold weather playoff game, particularly at home. Well, they are at home, it's a playoff game, and it's going to be cold! So let's take a closer look at the Bengals/Jets game this Saturday, the first game of the weekend.
To start off, as a handicapper, you need to completely disregard last weeks game, in which the Jets beat the Bengals 37-0. Sure, the Bengals said all of the right things heading into that game. They said they wanted to win, they said they wanted to build momentum for the playoffs, heck, they even started Carson Palmer! So on the surface, it looked as though they were going to go all out.
As it turned out, the Bengals laid down last week. Several key players did not play. The game plan was as conservative as could be per orders from Marvin Lewis to his coordinators. The Bengals showed the Jets absolutely nothing. Sure, they may have had the intention of taking a shot or two with Carson Palmer, maybe try and grab a lead and hold on, but the Jets were playing with their season on the line and once the Jets pulled in front early, the entire Bengal team packed it in. They did the right thing. They had nothing to gain at that point. Why show a team your going to play the following week when it counts anything.
Make no mistake. You will see a very different football game this week. It won't be 37-0. That's a guarantee.
First off, it's very important to remember something when you hear the media and the talking heads on TV talk about the Jets and their defense. They are quoting year to date stats. Included in those stats are two games against teams that laid down for the Jets. The Jets have a very good defense. They do not, however, have the best defense in the NFL. It's important to take into account that the Bengals took care of their business as a playoff team should. They won their spot, on the field, during the regular season. They clinched before the season was over, and needed no help from anyone other team. The Jets were 7-7 with two games to go, and received a gift from the Colts and the Bengals.
But the Jets are here, and honestly, not much separates these two teams. They have a very similar make up. Both teams stress the run offensively and play solid defense. You could say that both teams are built for a cold weather playoff game. In fact if you take the last 6 meaningful games for both teams, which for the Jets means not considering the games against the Colts and Bengals, the numbers for these two teams are pretty close.
For me, this game comes down to two players. Carson Palmer vs. Mark Sanchez. The Jets are not going to be able to run the ball the way they did last week. The Bengals are going to make Mark Sanchez attempt too win this game with his arm and that is where the Jet's will run into problems. Sanchez has thrown 20 interceptions this year and has lost 9 fumbles. He has yet to learn how to get rid of the ball in hopeless situations and instead tries to force plays and make things happen.
A game like this will always be decided by mistakes and the team most likely to make those mistakes is the Jets and the player who will likely make those mistakes is Mark Sanchez. The Jets are 0-5 in games this year where they lost the turnover battle. The Bengals, under Marvin Lewis, are 37-6 when they win the turnover battle. That's the only stat you need to know in this one.
Carson Palmer led the Bengals to the playoffs in his first year as starter for the Bengals, his 2nd season in the league. He and the Bengals earned a home playoff game against the Steelers in a game the Bengals were expected to win. Palmer threw one pass in that game. A completion. Unfortunately, he left the game on a stretcher following that play, which let the air out of the stadium and the Bengals season as the Steelers went on to win the game. Who knows what might have been? It's taken Palmer since then to make it back to the playoffs. Expect him to make the most of the opportunity.
At the end of the day it comes down to 7 years of NFL experience with Carson Palmer to 1 very shaky rookie year for Mark Sanchez. The Jets have taken as much responsibility as they possibly can out of Mark Sanchez's hands but the one dimensional approach can't work in the playoffs against the leagues elite. Here he's up against a Bengals defense giving up just 13 points per game at home and sporting a yards per point number in those games of 22. After playing against one of the hottest teams and QB's in the NFL a couple of weeks ago in the Chargers and Phillip Rivers, this should be like facing a pee wee offense this week in the Jets.
The Bengals will have the home field. They'll have ALL of their key players including Cedric Benson who sat last week. Their defense is as good or better than the Jets. They'll have a veteran QB against a rookie who makes mistakes. They have all of the necessary edges required to win a home playoff game and they earned the right to host this game based on what they did during the year, unlike their opponent the Jets.
The number on this game, the Bengals -2, simply requires us to pick a straight up winner. In fact we will split our wager here by playing some on the money line and some against the spread. A 2* play broken down as follows.
1* Bengals -2
1* Bengals -130 or less
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