Bengals at Jets: Preview and Prediction

Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets corner back Darrelle Revis (24) stretches before a game against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets corner back Darrelle Revis (24) stretches before a game against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

In NFL Week 1, the Jets will host the defending AFC North Champs in what should be a physical, hard-hitting matchup between two of the better teams in the AFC.

The New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals will get their seasons underway at Metlife Stadium on 1:00 EST on Sunday. This could be a possible matchup come January, with both teams looking like they have improved.

A year ago, the Jets put up 24.2 points per game, tied for 10th in the NFL, per Team Rankings. Their dynamic aerial attack with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall will remain just as potent as it was a year ago. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if both finished the season with 1,000 or more receiving yards.

New York lost Chris Ivory in free agency, who accounted for 57 percent of the team’s rushing yards last year. The Jets were a top-10 team in rushing yards per game a year ago but also had one of the league’s best offensive lines.

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In 2015, New York allowed just 1.4 sacks per game and had the league’s second fewest sack percentage, 3.51 percent. Fast-forward to 2016, and the offensive line goes from strength to question mark.

Former three-time Pro Bowl left tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, has retired and is now replaced by the oft-injured Ryan Clady. Right guard Willie Colon is long gone and will be replaced by Brian Winters, who struggled in pass protection.  And then perhaps their biggest question on the O-line is at right tackle, where either Ben Ijalana (three games played last year) or Brent Qvale (one start a year ago) will start in Week 1.

Head coach Todd Bowles told the New York Post Monday that both could potentially see playing time on Sunday.

“Until it sorts itself out, yes,” Bowles said. “It’s possible. I’ve been in this league for 16, 17 years. Right tackles don’t fall off trees. You’re not going to claim a starting right tackle in this league. They’re like quarterbacks.”

For the Bengals, well, they’ll be without two starters in weak side linebacker Vontaze Burfict (suspension) and tight end Tyler Eifert (ankle) who hasn’t practiced all week.

Both played huge roles for this team a year ago. Burfict was the third leading tackler on this team, playing a versatile role between any of the three linebacker positions. Eifert caught 13 touchdowns in just 12 starts a year ago, finishing as the team’s third-leading receiver in yards and receptions.

If the Bengals do plan on being in the postseason again, they’ll need a repeat season from quarterback Andy Dalton. Prior to his injury in Week 14 against the Steelers, Dalton was having not only a career year, but an MVP-caliber year as well. Dalton now has a pair of rookie receivers by his side who will complement A.J. Green and this offense nicely. The Bengals used their second round pick on Tyler Boyd out of Pittsburgh and then drafted Cody Core in the sixth round out of Ole Miss.

Both Boyd and Core are upgrades on Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu from last year. With that being said, this team’s biggest assets on offense are still Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The two backs have much different skill sets but complement each other to provide balance and keep the defense on their heels.

Bernard is the speed demon and can make defenders look silly with his quick stutter steps and cuts. Hill is the power back, coming in on I-formation and power sets. When you need a yard, Hill is your guy. In year three he should get a heavier load and an increased role in this offense.

Next: 2016 NFL season: Epic season preview

These are two hungry football teams who have been overshadowed over the past 10 years by the powerhouses within their own divisions like the Steelers and Patriots. While the Jets and their crowd will be amped up for football season with the Mets eight games out of first place in the NL East, I’ll take the Bengals and Dalton on the road.

Pick: Cincinnati 21, New York 17