The Cincinnati Bengals will look to win their fourth game in a row this Sunday when they host the New York Jets in a matchup of two of the league’s top 10 defenses.
The Bengals (5-2) seem to be hitting their stride as they have finally seen encouraging signs in the passing game.
However, Cincinnati is still lacking one key element necessary for a deep playoff run – the rushing game, which appears to be getting worse as the season progresses. Last week against Detroit, Cincinnati totalled just 57 yards on the ground, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. Furthermore, on the season, Bengals ball carriers are averaging only 3.7 yards, not particularly positive for a team designed to win on defense and ball control. And things may not improve against the Jets (4-3) who are allowing only 77.7 yards on the ground per game.
Cincinnati has split carries between workhorse veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis and explosive rookie Giovani Bernard with the hope that their different running styles would be able to break down opposing defenses. The plan, though, has not worked. Bernard is clearly the more talented running back, but needs to see more carries in order to break off the one or two long runs that can change the momentum of a game.
New York, meanwhile, features a talented rookie of its own. Last week against the New England Patriots, first-year quarterback Geno Smith showed strong leadership skills in guiding his team to an overtime victory, out-dueling three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady in the process. Smith appears to have all the intangibles necessary for succeeding in the NFL. He has now won four times in the fourth quarter or overtime in just seven career games. However, he is still far from being a polished passer (11 interceptions in only seven games), meaning he could be in for a long day against a Bengals defense that has been brutal to visiting quarterbacks. In their three home games this year, the Bengals faced Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Brady who recorded their lowest quarterback ratings of the season.
Kickoff between the Jets and Bengals is set for 4:05 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium.