It would be insane for the opposing defense to spend the week ignoring Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. It's inconceivable. Not only is Green on pace to generate 98 receptions for 1,415 yards this year, both career highs, he's already become the second player in NFL history to post at least 200 receptions, 3,000 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns through his first 38 career games.
"People talk about the best receiver in the game, and I think he’s right there – one or two," said Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace via Darryl Slater with the Star-Ledger.
During Cincinnati's two most recent games, Green has posted a combined 258 yards receiving, two touchdowns on only 12 receptions -- two of which went 50 yards or more. Green also rankes No. 3 in the AFC with 619 yards receiving.
"What does the kid not have?" said Jets coach Rex Ryan via the Star-Ledger. "He's got size, speed, athleticism, route running, a great catching radius. In my opinion, he's probably the best receiver in the AFC."
That's why players like Marvin Jones have benefited from the attention focused on Green. Jones was targeted a combined 11 times against the Bills and Lions (most during a two-game stretch this season), converting that for 128 yards receiving and back-to-back games with at least one touchdown reception in each. Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert ranked first in the NFL by a tight end duo with 50 receptions.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a former defensive coordinator, knows teams will focus on Green, "and if we try to keep throwing that ball into A.J., we’re going to have turnovers," Lewis said. But Lewis said this focus also creates one-on-one opportunities for players like tight ends Tyler Eifert, a rookie who has 22 catches and 270 yards, and Jermaine Gresham, a fourth-year pro with 28 catches and 274 yards.
Cincinnati needs an effective passing game against the Jets, who ranks second in the NFL with a 77.7 yard/game average. One of those units is New York's defensive line, who Football Outsiders ranks second in the NFL with a 2.85 adjusted line yards, and one of the best defenses against power success ("percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown") with names like Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson.
"They do a lot of crazy personnel groups, a lot of different things that are going to put you in tough situations," Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth said via ESPN. "It's kind of a call-and-run defense. You just never know what personnel might be in the field, what kind of things they might be lined up in. So it's a lot of recognition and being able to know where they are."
"Taking nothing away from Buffalo's defense, they're playing very well and they are very good. But [Jets coach] Rex Ryan's got this system in place for a lot of years," Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said via ESPN. "His interior people. Those big guys, they stop the run like nobody I've ever seen. It'll be a great challenge for us to get guys in the right spots as far as protection's concerned and finding guys to throw it to."
The Bengals aren't worried though; they believe they'll be able to run it.
"We've faced different guys different weeks," Whitworth said via ESPN. "When you can kind of have the game look the same no matter who has the hard guy lined up against him, that's when you know you have a good group. That's what we have been able to do. It really doesn't matter where their player is, things look the same. That's what your goal is every time you play a game."