Ever since Rex Ryan took over for the New York Jets, I've always felt they were as close as a team could come to the AFC North without actually being a member of the esteemed blue-collar class. The ground-and-pound philosophy is in his genes, he can't shake it. He loves being physical on offense and aggressive on defense. He likes his players oversized with an attitude. He likes getting riled up with his team.
Last week he and his troops vanquished their longtime nemesis, the New England Patriots, by playing with a mightier will (and enjoying the fruits of a new rule change). The Patriots have a Mr. Everything quarterback and a mad genius at the helm, but they are not a rough-and-tumble bunch of hombres like the Men in Stripes. The Bengals can play with the biggest of brutes. They can shove around jumbo packages and make opposing quarterbacks feel the turf. If the Jets think they can run it down the throats of the Bengals 50 times and win by playing power football, then they've already lost.
The best part of this matchup for Cincinnati is that it should allow the rottweiler James Harrison to get on the field more than usual. His appearances have been few this season as teams regularly feature three or more receivers which renders Harrison to the sideline, but the Jets aren't afraid and they will feel his bite as a result.
New York does not employ an impressive list of names on offense. Their skill players are a hodge-podge of leftovers that have yet to carve out much of a name for themselves. True, the Bengals lost Leon Hall yet again, but Hall, for as talented as he is, seems always injured and the organization should be used to him dressed in sweatpants instead of shoulder pads. The other defensive backs should be able to reasonably handle the Jets receivers though. Like Marvin Lewis intimated with the media, it's time Dre Kirkpatrick rise up to be the first-rounder his football card says he is.
Like almost every game against Cincinnati, though, the contest will come down to how much time young Geno Smith enjoys in the pocket. The equation is so stupefyingly simple that it's almost embarrassing to outline here on paper: give him time, he will hurt you. Get in his face quickly, he struggles. Matt Stafford launched rockets from the pocket in a hurry last week and had the Bengals secondary scrambling. Even though the Zim Clan racked up some hits on Stafford, not sacking him made the game extremely challenging to win.
The Jets are sure to try the same method. Look for quick-hitters and short passes to counter the dazzling pass rush of the Stripes. If they can avoid passing altogether, they will, but the Jets having a large enough lead to run the ball and bleed the clock seems unlikely. I think the Cincinnati front seven will make life hard on Smith. For all the bouquets tossed the rookies way a week ago, I see his play evening out dramatically and his frustration getting the best of him this time.
On offense, the Bengals would be smart to keep it easy and sensible. If the Jets commit the kind of turnovers I sense them suffering on Sunday, the offense will simply have to protect the ball and win on field goals. Bland analysis, I know, but what the Bengals can't do is be dragged into a sloppy game that they may not make it out it of. Look at it like a football Vietnam War. Don't make the mistakes of the past.
It's tough running on the Ryan renegades. They are as stout as their coach and have gotten back to effectively rushing the passer. If the run falters, which it is likely to do, Dalton must become more caretaker than world-beater.
Fortunately for him, the offensive line is playing it's best under Dalton. Watching Andre Smith develop into one of the best at his position has been refreshing. For a guy that shouldered a world of worry, he has truly become great. Got DVR? Rewatch the Bengals games but only watch Andre Smith on offense and Vontaze Burfict on defense. Both of these guys have shed their negative skins and become pros pros. Burfict is positively terrifying in cleats and made of 100 percent pure linebacker guts. Smith is a 350-pound bulldog who quietly does his job seemingly on every play.
Against the Jets, Goo and his mates take on their toughest challenge yet and have a reputation to maintain. If Dalton is running for his life, and throwing it more than necessary, then the Bengals find themselves in that messy jungle with few ways out, but if they stick to the game plan, run the ball even with minimal success and avoid turnovers, they can manage themselves to a win.
This will not be pretty, nor glamorous, nor classy. The frumpy Jets come into town with only trouble on their minds. They're going to mix it up and try to draw the Bengals into penalties and fights. They will not resort to aerial assaults until they have to and try to make the whole thing into a trench fight, mustard gas and all. Zimmer's men must keep their cool and their objective at hand. Mental toughness makes the playoffs.
Bengals 19, Jets 13
Mojokong-a prose pro.