Heading into the Bengals vs Jets season opener today, here are the top three keys to victory for Gang Green leaving this game victorious.
Aug 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) pointing at the defense in the 1st half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
The long wait is finally over as the regular season has arrived. To kick things off, the New York Jets will take on the Cincinnati Bengals in the Meadowlands in a matchup that should without a doubt live up to the hype. Both teams found plenty of success in 2015 with Gang Green winning 10 games and Cincy racking up a dozen en route to their fifth-consecutive playoff berth. In this Bengals vs Jets matchup, both teams hope for similar results in the new year.
Head coach Todd Bowles‘ group has lots to look forward to regardless of their shaky preseason. They went 1-3 struggling in the second half of all four outings, but Week 1 and beyond is what really counts. The Jets have quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick back under center and All-Pro running back Matt Forte has joined the party. You also have to love the receiving core and defense, although question marks do loom at right tackle and outside linebacker.
On the other hand, the Bengals plugged up a number of roster holes this offseason acquiring talent in free agency and the draft. Quarterback Andy Dalton is still slinging the rock while the two-headed monster remains the team’s strength on offense. Cincinnati’s line could be one of the more underrated units in the league and head coach Marvin Lewis should keep the defense stout. Some of the new faces and injuries are the only concerns for the AFC North champs in 2016.
With that being said, New York has a tall task on Sunday. Followed up by road trips to Buffalo and Kansas City, this is one the Jets have to win. They’ve come through in seven of their last eight openers, so let’s see if they can continue to deliver.
Here are three keys to victory for Gang Green.
Next: 3. Contain A.J. Green
Dec 28, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) at the line of scrimmage defends in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
3. Contain A.J. Green
If you fail to keep Adriel Jeremiah Green in check, you’re in big trouble. This is because running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard pose a threat of their own on the ground. Combine that duo with the elite receiver and you have an explosive offense in the ‘Queen City.’ Fortunately for the Jets, they’re not too shabby when it comes to stopping the run, making Green the only guy they have to be seriously worried about.
While New York’s run defense is lights out, their cornerback play is as well thanks to the continued dominance of cornerback Darrelle Revis. There’s no hiding that the future Pro Football Hall of Famer was shredded by wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins in Week 11 and Sammy Watkins in Week 17 of this past season. But he still might be the best in the business. He finished 2015 with five interceptions, four fumble recoveries and the NFL’s lowest completion percentage allowed for passes thrown into his coverage (46.5%), per Pro Football Focus.
The Jets should use Revis on Green for a majority of the contest, however, he shouldn’t be glued to him on every play. This isn’t the same cornerback who locked up wideouts from start to finish for a decent stretch of time. Green is a guy who can wear him out and carve him up in the fourth quarter. As a result, Bowles would be hard pressed not to stick Buster Skrine or Marcus Williams on him when Revis gets gassed. Containing Cincinnati’s best player is step one in coming away with a W.
Next: 2. Tackling on special teams
Sep 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Paul Turner (80) scores on a 71-yard punt return against the New York Jets during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
2. Tackling on special teams
Let’s face it, New York’s special teams have been dreadful in terms of punt and kick coverage as of late. Last year, they allowed the third-most yards in the league on kickoffs (1,168) and the fourth-most on punts (470). They additionally gave up two punt returns for touchdowns, an average of 12.7 yards per punt return and forced a mere 14 fair catches. According to those numbers, they might’ve been the league’s worst unit in the department.
Thus far, things seem to be on the rise for the Jets’ special teams. Kicker Nick Folk is fully recovered from a quadriceps injury that ended his 2015 campaign short. Kick coverage shouldn’t be as much of an issue because of Folk’s ability to generate touchbacks. Rookie punter Lachlan Edwards has impressed with the hangtime he puts on punts, so a lot of those won’t be returnable either. Even if a ball is returnable the hangtime should allow the gunners to get downfield and make a play.
Linebacker Bruce Carter has the potential to be another special teams standout. Entering the season as the No. 4 inside linebacker on the depth chart, the veteran may not see many snaps on the team’s defense. He blocked a punt in the matchup against the New York Giants and he made several tackles in the first tune-up against the Jacksonville Jaguars. If Carter and safety Rontez Miles can continue doing their thing, the Bengals shouldn’t do any damage on special teams.
Next: 1. Keep it simple on offense
1. Keep it simple on offense
The Jets have a good deal of depth on offense, although they’d be kidding themselves if they think Week 1 is the time to show it off. This game is a must-win and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has to keep things simple by utilizing his best players. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker made franchise history last year combining for 189 catches, 2,529 yards, and 26 touchdowns. Forte and Bilal Powell are great fits as receiving backs in the spread offense and Quincy Enunwa is slowly developing into a meaningful weapon.
All Fitzpatrick needs is this group and pass protection to put points on the board. Luckily for him, Ryan Clady, James Carpenter, Nick Mangold, Brian Winters, and Brent Qvale are reliable enough to keep him off the turf. Despite allowing a boatload of pressure, Gang Green’s line surrendered just 22 sacks in 2015. As long as everyone stays healthy and Clady replaces the durable D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the unit will be even better.
Of course Jalin Marshall, Robby Anderson, Charone Peake, and Ben Ijalana have upside, however their experience is minimal. Marshall, Anderson and Peake are rookies while Ijalana backed up Ferguson for five years before joining the mix at right tackle this summer. It’s definitely an advantage to have a roster this deep and general manager Mike Maccagnan should be content with what he has. Though in a season opener, you can’t get fancy and take snaps from your starters. Play your best guys and get the win.