Let’s take a trip back in time to the 2018 offseason. It’s April and the Cincinnati Bengals are coming off of two straight losing seasons after a national embarrassment in the 2015 Wild Card game against the Steelers.
Cincinnati held the No. 12 overall pick in the draft after finishing 7-9 the previous year. Noting that their offensive line had major holes and that some previous high picks used to replace Andrew Whitworth and/or Kevin Zeitler weren’t panning out, the team swung a trade for a veteran tackle named Cordy Glenn.
The move pushed the Bengals back to No. 21 and they eventually selected interior offensive lineman, Billy Price, who has had trouble cracking the lineup this year. In the picks between what they once had and who they selected, names like Marcus Davenport, Tremaine Edmunds, Derwin James, Jaire Alexander and Leighton Vander Esch were taken by various clubs.
Did we mention that Glenn has missed 13 games since his arrival last year? Even so, he and Price are far from the only problems plaguing the Bengals in the span—but rather examples of decisions not working out as hoped.
The quarterback position is under major scrutiny as the offseason looms. There only seems to be a small chance that Andy Dalton remains the team’s starter next year, while Ryan Finley only showed NFL backup ability in his three starts.
Cincinnati appears to be headed for a top-five pick next year and will likely use it on LSU’s Joe Burrow, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, or Oregon’s Justin Herbert. If they go said route, it will only be the third time in nearly two decades that the team is in search of a franchise signal-caller.
If there’s one thing the Bengals’ opponent this week is familiar with, it’s having high picks and cycling through quarterbacks. In 2018, the New York Jets used a No. 3 overall pick on Sam Darnold, who is still growing as an NFL passer. By comparison, he is the sixth quarterback the team has selected in the first two rounds since 2000.
However, between his college tape and recent uptick in performance, the J-E-T-S may have finally found a long-term answer at the position since Chad Pennington manned the spot.
As MacGregor Wells of SB Nation’s “Gang Green Nation” put it when he spoke to us this week: “Darnold has been outstanding over the last three games, throwing seven touchdown passes and just one interception over that stretch. He has produced an aggregate passer rating over 110 in those three games and has led a Jets offense that has finally looked good after a long stretch in which they were arguably the worst offense in the NFL.”
Darnold missed some games at the beginning of the year because of his contracting of mononucleosis, but is just 8-13 overall as an NFL starter the past two seasons. Still, he’s won his last three and with the Bengals on the horizon, it appears that a fourth is easily in view.
The Jets’ defense has also helped Darnold secure those wins. New York currently boasts the No. 1 run defense in the league, as they force teams to become one-dimensional and predictable.
Coincidentally, the Bengals’ deplorable rushing attack has seen a rise in production the past two weeks. Play-calls more conducive to Joe Mixon’s skill sets and his own high level of effort have resulted in his netting of 279 yards and a 4.4 yards-per-carry average in the previous three contests. It’s actually quite the feat, as opposing defenses surely figured the team would be feeding the ball to Mixon (which they did) with a rookie starting at quarterback.
Also coincidental is Cincinnati’s Jekyll-and-Hyde defense playing a bend-but-don’t-break style of football these past few weeks. After getting demolished by Lamar Jackson in Week 10, Lou Anarumo’s unit has averaged an allowance of 16.5 points the past two weeks.
Sure, it was against an Oakland team that just got housed by these Jets 34-4 last week, as well as it coming against a depleted Steelers offense, but it shows baby steps in the right direction.
And, really, that’s what this Week 13 clash between the Jets and Bengals is about: below-average teams starting to find ways to show facets of on-field improvement. Numbers-wise, it’s a matchup that favors New York, to be sure.
However, with Dalton being re-inserted to the lineup, this seems like an opportune time for one of those patented late-season run by the Bengals. You know the ones—it’s when the Bengals are eliminated from playoff contention, but attempt to find things upon which to hang their hats for the following year.
It’s beyond time for a Bengals win. We’re going on a calendar year since the last victory (a Week 15 win against the Raiders on December 16th, 2018) and are on a 1-18 stretch, dating back to last season.
Dalton is going to play with a renewed vigor and the two-win Jets at 1 p.m. provide the settings for a trademark win by No. 14. With his being re-inserted to the lineup, this seems like an opportune time for one of those patented late-season run by the Bengals. You know the ones—it’s when the Bengals are eliminated from playoff contention, but attempt to find things upon which to hang their hats for the following year.
Jets 20, Bengals 22
AC — It starts with one.