The Cincinnati Bengals and the New York Jets square off in an appealing Week 1 matchup between two AFC playoff favorites.
Opening up on the road in Week 1 is no easy task. In fact, the Cincinnati Bengals haven’t opened up at home since 2009. In those six games, they are 3-3.
The New York Jets on the other hand, are looking to build on a strong 10-6 campaign in head coach Todd Bowles first rodeo last year. With another year under his belt, and with a similar squad, the Jets will look to make noise once again in the AFC.
The Jets are favored by 2.5 points at home, with an OVER/UNDER of 41.5. The Bengals were 6-2 away from Paul Brown Stadium last year and 5-1 against conference opponents.
For the Bengals, they need to find unique ways to get the ball into running back Giovani Bernard’s hands. Bernard is dynamic playmaker in space. With the ball in his hands, he’s more than capable of making defenders look plain silly, like this:
Yes, he did end up scoring.
With questions remaining about the depth at receiver for the Bengals, Bernard can take over games via the short passing game. In the preseason they toyed around with him, lining him up in the slot and even out wide. Look for the Bengals to get Bernard involved early and often as they will try and get a favorable matchup on a linebacker.
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The Bengals drafted Tyler Boyd in the second round from Pittsburgh. He’s listed as the third receiver on the Bengals’ depth chart, behind Brandon LaFell. But the Bengals will resort to three and four receiver sets to make up for their lack of quality tight ends, and to test the Jets’ depth at cornerback behind Revis. Which, speaking of Revis, let’s get to the next point.
A.J. Green on Revis needs some attention of course, as one of the best receivers in the game will be matched up one-on-one with one of the best corners. Revis allowed a completion percentage of just 46.5 last season, which lead the league according to Pro Football Focus.
Green is 6’4″ compared to Revis who is just 5’11”. But don’t be fooled, Revis is more than capable of shutting down receivers who tower over him. Just ask his former opponent and now teammate, Brandon Marshall who’s also 6’4″:
The Bengals’ offensive line was one of the more stable lines in the NFL last year. They allowed just 32 sacks, which was tied for the fifth fewest in the league last year. Where they did struggle, however, was run blocking, as the Bengals averaged just 3.9 yards per carry.
This offensive line, anchored by left tackle Andrew Whitworth, will have a tough task at hand right out of the gate against what is the second best defensive line, according to NFL.com.
They did lose nose tackle Damon Harrison in free agency to the other New York team. Not only did they lose a gap-eating machine, they also lost an athletic freak too:
Steve Mclendon, a seven-year vet from Troy, will take over as the starter at nose in the Jets’ base 3-4 scheme. Last year in nine starts for the Steelers, Mclendon had 14 tackles and a sack as well as a deflected pass.
With Eifert gone and Green going up against one of the league’s best in Revis, it’ll be interesting to see who Dalton will turn to. It’s imperative that the Bengals get into a rhythm early given how potent the Jets offense was a year ago.
Limiting Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s ability to throw down field to either Decker or Marshall will be huge for the Bengals. If they can apply early pressure on Fitzpatrick, forcing him to release the ball quicker than he wants to, the Bengals will set the tone early in the trenches.
The Bengals have a better defensive line than the Jets’ offensive line — at least their starters, anyway.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins (11) and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (13.5) accounted for nearly 60 percent of the Bengals’ 42 sacks last year. While they’ll be in the starting lineup for Week 1, there’s really no depth behind them. Margus Hunt (1.5 career sacks) and DeShawn Williams (rookie) will be backing Atkins and Dunlap up.
Brandon Marshall has 1,000 yards receiving or more in eight of his 11 seasons in the game. Last year, he spent a majority of the time spent out wide in plus splits. With defenses likely game planning more for Marshall this season, expect to see him moved around quite a bit more. A 6’4″ monster lined up against a slot corner is the type of headache that will keep defensive coaches up all night:
Marshall runs a corner route and the cornerback simply is no match for him. The Bengals will likely have cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (6’2″) on Marshall. Look for Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey to play chess with the Bengals defense as they try and exploit holes in coverages.
This game has the makings for one of the better games of the weekend. Each team stacks up fairly similar to the other. But there can only be won winner. Tune in Sunday morning to find out who it will be.