Recently the topic of Bengal rivalry was raised and all the typical villains were trotted out as in a police line-up for the conversation. Here were all of the standard divisional scum bags and, of course, San Francisco was included because of two notable Bengal defeats in the bitter days or yore. Yet one name-worthy thug, one that has managed to cause real trouble for the Stripes recently and no one seems to notice, is the stinking New York Jets.
This mouthy gang seems to always be in Cincinnati's way, and I feel I have been forced to root against them more vigorously than I have teams within the AFC North for the past few years.
It all started with the the last game of the regular season in 2009. The Bengals had already clinched the division and the game was cold and at night. Marvin Lewis played his starters for a possession and got them the hell out of there. J.T. O'Sullivan lined up under center for the Bengals and the Jets won 37-0.
The next week, wild-card week, the Jets got them again in the much-more-important rematch. What seemed so promising once Laveranues Coles caught a touchdown in the opening drive, crumbled when Jets offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, broke the Bengals' back and spirit with a tremendous sequence of play-calling that caught Cincinnati sleeping. The Jets went on to the AFC Championship game, while the Bengals went back to the drawing board.
Then came Thanksgiving the next season. The Bengals were mired in an ugly losing streak. The football world was perplexed as to why Cincinnati was so bad. Earlier that year, with straight faces, there were mentions of the Super Bowl around the Bengals training camp. By the time Turkey Day rolled around, however, all of that had dissipated.
Nonetheless, the Bengals were playing on Thanksgiving and that made it an even cooler holiday than usual. A win on national television could have restored a little pride on the season, but instead, Carson Palmer threw into tons of coverage and Brad Smith decided to have his best game in the NFL that night. All in all, it was turned out to be another green football week against the Jets.
Then last year, 2011, Andy Dalton and the Bengals once again confounded the football wizards, only this time by winning when no one thought they had much of a chance. Before they did, though, the Jets gave us reason to worry about Dalton. In the second preseason game, the Jets blitzed Dalton and forced him into two first-half picks. The Jets won again, 27-7.
As for the regular season, when it came down the stretch, it was Cincinnati and New York jockeying for a playoff spot. The Bengals held up enough while the Jets imploded, typified by a Week 17 loss to the Dolphins that allowed Cincinnati to lose the final week and still get into the playoffs.
Watching Mark Sanchez throw his team out of the hunt was satisfying. The fact the offense leaned so heavily upon his shoulder was the result of the coaching staff listening to the media and unhappy-player grumblings. The Jets made it to two straight AFC Championships by bullying their way into position. They tried getting cute last year with the pass and came up short. Both Cincinnati and New York seem to be best when they stick to more basic football philosophy. The Bengals brought in Terrell Owens and everything fell apart. The Jets brought in Plaxico Burress and didn't fare much better.
This year, both teams are once more in similar positions in the fact that they are still recognized as second-tier behind the perennial favorites. Many assume that among a handful of other teams, New York and Cincinnati are already vying for a wild-card spot within the AFC. As time goes by, these two organizations will continue to try and take out their respective heavy-hitters while keeping an eye on each other. Both are eager to get things going, and, lo and behold, look who's first on the preseason schedule. Why, it's the Jets.