With the dead of football season here, we're beginning to look ahead to the Bengals' 2016 schedule and the teams they'll play this season. First up is the New York Jets who the Bengals will face in Week 1. The matchup should be a good one for many reasons, though, we still don't really know who the Jets' quarterback will be.
Team: New York Jets
Former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles enters his second year as the Jets' head coach. Under Bowles, the Cardinals' 2014 defense finished fifth in scoring defense, picking off 18 passes and notching 35 sacks. His ultra-aggressive, blitz-happy scheme was one of the most unique schemes in football. New York's defense improved from 24th to ninth in points allowed under his direction last year. The team's offense also drastically improved under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
Recapping Last Season:
Even the most optimistic of Jets fans had to be happy with a 10-6 season in Todd Bowles' first year. A surprising career-year from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, as well as drastic improvements on both sides of the ball, combined to make a winning and near-playoff berth happen. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker teamed up to form one of the NFL's most lethal receiving duos, but despite the Jets' offensive success, the team folded in a Week 17 matchup with the Bills, which both cost New York a playoff run and opened the door for Pittsburgh, who eventually beat Cincinnati in a brutal Wild Card matchup.
History With Cincinnati:
The most recent matchup between these two teams was one of the Bengals' best performances of the Andy Dalton era. Dalton passed for 325 yards, 5 touchdowns and an interception. Both the Bengals and Jets rushed for under 100 yards each, but the Bengals' passing attack tore through New York's secondary. Marvin Jones ended the game with eight catches on eight targets, tallying 122 yards and four touchdowns. A.J. Green hauled in three passes for 115 yards. New York, on the other hand, struggled all game long. Geno Smith was benched after a poor performance, and the Bengals eventually won, 49-9.
Prior to the Bengals' slaughtering of the Jets in 2013, however, the team had performed very poorly against New York. In 2010, the Jets beat the Bengals two times in seven days--both in Week 17 and in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The Jets lead the all-time regular season series 15-7 and lead the postseason series 2-0.
Over the 2016 offseason, the team added former Bears running back Matt Forte and used the franchise tag on defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. The 2015 Jets exceeded all expectations, but in 2016, anything short of a playoff run will likely be considered a failure due to high expectations from fans. Though the Jets were one of the worst teams in the NFL just a couple of seasons ago, New York is a win-now football team. To make things even more complicated, Fitzpatrick has yet to sign with New York, which leaves Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenburg competing for the backup and third-string spots, provided that Fitzpatrick eventually gets a deal done with his team. Though, at this point, who knows what will happen and maybe Smith will be the default starter if no deal comes to light with the former Bengals quarterback.
Cincinnati Game Date:
Week 1: Sunday, September 11th, 1:00 p.m. ET
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Odds of a Bengals Victory:
Very Early Outlook:
The Jets are a sneaky good team. The team's offense is loaded with superstar talent, and its coaching staff has transformed a defense filled with no-name players into one of the league's most dominant units. Granted, Darrelle Revis, Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are superstars, but aside from those three players and second-year defensive lineman Leonard Williams, the defense doesn't boast a lot of notable players.
Not knowing whether Fitzpatrick will start for New York in Week 1 will hurt the Bengals until he eventually re-signs, retires or finds a new team to play for, but at the same point, the Jets will have less practice with the veteran signal-caller. The Jets are a much more complete team than people give them credit for, but the Bengals are still the more talented team. The matchup between Green and Revis will be exciting and important, as Tyler Eifert could potentially miss the first week with an ankle injury. Additionally, Vontaze Burfict and Taylor Mays will be serving suspensions, so they certainly won't play.
This matchup will be much more difficult than I think people anticipate. The Bengals will need to acclimate to their new coaching staff and starting personnel, which could come with some growing pains. That being said, I'm giving the Bengals the win here, 24-20.