The New York Jets have a chance to upset the Cincinnati Bengals for the second year in a now
Well, here we are.
After an unexpected win in Cleveland, expectations took a gigantic turn at One Jets Drive.
Proof of that is the way fans are looking at next Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Before the season, the Jets’ week 3 matchup had an “L” marked on most season predictions. The 4-13 New York Jets, many thought, would have no shot against the Super Bowl-bound Bengals.
Now, it seems as though things have changed. It’s not the 4-13 Jets against the Super Bowl Bengals anymore.
Instead, it’s the 1-1 Jets, coming off an incredible win in Week 2, receiving the desperate 0-2 Bengals at home, with a clear chance to win.
How real is that perception?
It’s real, but, whereas the Bengals have been bad and the Jets indeed match up well with them, Cincy still has a superstar QB in Joe Burrow. And that balances everything out.
Also, the Bengals will be playing with a glaring sense of urgency, knowing it’s hard to bounce back from an 0-3 start.
Nonetheless, considering how both teams match up, New York has a real shot to upset the Bengals at home and get to 2-1.
Below, I will explain why the Jets match up so well with the Bengals, on both sides of the ball.
If you’ve watched the 19 games of the Robert Saleh era, you have already realized there’s a clear path to gain yards against the Jets.
Screens, gap runs, and isolating pass catchers on New York’s LBs and safeties do the trick.
That’s why the Browns moved the ball at will against New York: They ran it a lot, countered the aggressiveness of the DL with smart screen passes, and isolated their pass catchers on interior defenders (linebackers) on early downs. That simple.
Although it’s simple, not every team will play the Jets like that. Not every offense has the Browns’ talent along the offensive line, and not every offensive coordinator wants to run their offense through the middle of the field.
The Bengals – lucky Jets – do the complete opposite of what the Browns do.
First, they do not have nearly the same OL talent. While Cleveland arguably has the best unit in the league upfront, Cincinnati might have the worst right now. Their OL coach, Frank Pollack, despite being respected around the league, had a brief stint with the Jets under Adam Gase and things also didn’t run smoothly.
Considering their weak OL, it’s hard for the Bengals to set things up on the ground, which already bodes well for the Jets’ defensive line because they will be able to attack more “freely”. The threat of play-action won’t be there as much.
The Bengals, then, turn to their passing game. And they also do the opposite of what usually hurts the Jets.
While it will be the biggest test for Reed and Gardner, it’s not easy to generate big plays on the Jets through the outside.
First, because of the scheme: the Jets have their cornerbacks covering the deep third or fourth of the field most of the time (1st and 2nd down).
Second, because of talent.
When in man, it’s easier for offenses to stay away from Sauce and Reed and bet on the matchups against New York’s safeties and linebackers. The Browns did that, if anyone remembers, by lining up Amari Cooper inside on 3rd downs (he beat Tony Adams on one of those).
Still, I do not think the Bengals will do that. They will try to conquer big yards on the outside, which is the hardest path against this Jets defense.
Also, considering Burrow’s willingness to drive the ball to the outside (which usually takes more time to develop) behind that struggling offensive line, this game could be the perfect scenario for a Jets defensive line breakout.
Cincy has Burrow, who can make things happen, but it’s up to the Jets to show that their “boring” defensive scheme can dominate when the perfect situation presents itself.
In this week’s Sidearm Session, I emphasized how this Jets offense is built to beat zone defenses through their many hi-lo concepts.
Against the Browns, who run a zone-heavy defense with little to no disguise, the Jets were able to move the ball through the air by simply executing the core of their passing offense.
Looking back at the Ravens game, it’s easy to spot how the Ravens’ coverage rotations (besides the pass rush) shook Joe Flacco’s timing with his receivers.
In a poor but fair comparison, it’s fair to say that the Bengals’ defensive scheme is closer to the Browns than the Ravens, which bodes well for New York.
Cincy still rotates post-snap, often showing 2 high safety looks (quarters or cover 2), and bringing one of their safeties post-snap to cover the intermediate area of the field (in what it’s commonly called Cover 3 buzz).
Nonetheless, the bottom line is that Cincy doesn’t have the powerful pass rush that both Baltimore and Cleveland possess.
Combining that with their heavy zone scheme, the Jets should have opportunities down the field and should be able to move the ball well.
On the ground, while Cincy has some good beef upfront (DT B.J. Hill comes to mind), the Jets’ offensive line has been able to push upfront in the team’s first two games.
Schematically, Cincinnati doesn’t run-blitz (I haven’t seen it yet), trusting the DL to maintain ground – which is also a good sign.
All things considered, the Jets offense should be able to move the ball well, and, who knows, maybe get some explosive plays with their play-action game.
- George Fant has an interesting matchup against Trey Hendrickson. Fant hasn’t been great thus far, but I think Hendrickson is the type of pass rusher he will be able to contain, due to his limited explosiveness.
- It will be exciting to watch Sauce Gardner go against Ja’Marr Chase, especially on those 3rd downs in man coverage. The rookie will have his hands full.
- Robert Saleh said that Carl Lawson is “still warming up”. That’s my impression as well. Maybe facing his former team will light up an extra fire and he shows up big on Sunday.
- I think both Jets running backs will have a great game catching the football. There will be a lot of space underneath for them to work.