1. Carl Lawson and the NY Jets edge rushers vs. the Bengals' struggling offensive line
The term revenge game is overused in the NFL. Just because a player plays his former team, that doesn't necessarily equate to a genuine revenge scenario.
After all, for that criteria to stick, a player must be someone who was jettisoned away or discarded. Carl Lawson is a Jet not because the Bengals abandoned him. It's because New York stepped up and won his services in free agency.
Nevertheless, Sunday's game will have added meaning for Lawson personally. Anytime a player plays their former team, it carries additional significance. Regardless, the real key to Lawson in this contest is if he and the Jets' edge rushers can exploit a carry-over weakness of Cincy's from 2021.
If the Bengals can keep the Jets' pass rush at bay, they should have their best offensive effort of the season. On the flip side, the Jets' key to victory will be limiting Cincinnati's superb skill players by exploiting their offensive line.
Despite all their offseason efforts to shore up their pass protection woes, the Bengals haven't shown a shred of progress in that area. If anything, they might be worse off than they were a year ago.
In Week 1 against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati gave up seven sacks. Even without an injured T.J. Watt, the Steelers consistently harassed Joe Burrow and forced him to make errant passes. Edge rusher Alex Highsmith had three sacks in the game.
In Week 2, the Bengals' offensive line allowed six sacks to Dallas. Megastar Micah Parsons predictably had two sacks — probably, could've had three more.
But it wasn't all Parsons for the Cowboys. Edge rusher Dorance Armstrong had two sacks as well — a player who has had seven overall sacks since entering the league in 2018.
Sense a pattern? It goes beyond struggling tackles Jonah Williams and free-agent pickup La'el Collins. Embattled offensive line coach Frank Pollack, who is no stranger to Jets fans, has struggled to get the most out of his group. A coaching change could be on the horizon for the Bengals if their line play doesn't improve.
Carl Lawson registered a big sack late in last week's win. He looks all the way back after missing the entirety of the 2021 season. Lawson, John Franklin-Myers, Jermaine Johnson, and company need to get to Burrow before he can get the ball to his talented trio of receivers.