A handful of initial thoughts on the New York Jets season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, who are currently 2.5 point favorites despite being on the road…
1. The Jets have now opened at home every season since 2010, where they have won every time except for in 2010 against the Ravens. Unlike the past 5 years, they will not be favorites. The Bengals have been a playoff team the past five seasons and despite being without Tyler Eifert and Vontaze Burfict, are road favorites against the Jets.
This will be a strong early season test for a team who fancies themselves AFC contenders. Cincinnati has a deep, talented roster and is particularly loaded upfront on both sides of the football. Andy Dalton missed the back half of last season with an injury and is never without his inconsistencies but was in the MVP discussion before getting hurt in 2015. AJ Green is in the discussion as the best receiver in football and Jeremy Hill/Gio Bernard are a talented one, two punch at running back.
The line on this game will probably move closer to PK by kickoff, which still means the Jets aren’t getting the 3 points for being home. This isn’t shocking. The Bengals were better than the Jets last year and have consistently been better the past 5 years. If the Jets are going to be a playoff team this season, this is the type of game they need to win at home, against a shorthanded but talented team.
2. There will be plenty of hype about Green going against Darrelle Revis but the Jets do not need to feed into it. In fact, they shouldn’t. Yes, there will be circumstances where Revis gets him one on one but for the most part, the Jets should bracket Green and use Revis to completely eliminate either Tyler Boyd or Brandon LaFell. Without Eifert, the Bengals have one player who can beat the Jets in the passing game: Green. There is no need to risk him winning one on one battles on an island. Make somebody else beat you, whether that is the mediocre LaFell or the rookie Boyd.
This doesn’t have to be a knock on Revis either. Even if Revis plays to his usual great standard, Green will make a play or two down the field. Why even open up that opportunity?
The only other primary concern in the passing game should be Bernard out of the backfield or split out. The Jets can use a combination of Buster Skrine, Marcus Gilchrist and maybe Bruce Carter to work on slowing him down. At least it won’t be Demario Davis trudging after him.
3. Offensively, the Jets are going to lean on their quick release passing game as the primary means to move the chains. It will be tough sledding running the football against this front with the Jets offensive line, who will be starting Brent Qvale or Ben Ijalana at right tackle. I don’t think the Jets will throw 40-50 times but this doesn’t feel like a game they can get away with Fitzpatrick only throwing 20-25 passes.
The Jets can supplement the running game with their screen game and with Matt Forte and Bilal Powell motioning out of the backfield as targets in the short passing game.
4. The Jets base offense features Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Quincy Enunwa at the H and another wide receiver (last year either Chris Owusu, Devin Smith or Kenbrell Thompkins) with a single back. It is likely that extra receiver will be a mix of Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall this week. Anderson has a skill set more conducive to what the Jets usually ask that position to do (run vertical routes and clear out space for Marshall/Decker) but the Jets will get creative to utilize J. Marshall. You are likely to see some looks that feature both him and Decker in the slot or him starting a formation lined up in the backfield. The Jets UDFAs didn’t just make the roster, they are actually going to be contributors to this offense. Marshall will also likely handle the punt and kick return duties, a tall task for a rookie.
5. Look for the Jets to use more 4 man fronts than we saw last season. They are more talented and proven at defensive line (even with Sheldon Richardson out Sunday) than they are at linebacker. Lorenzo Mauldin is coming off an underwhelming preseason and Jordan Jenkins is working back from injury, so I’d expect some Mike Catapano and plenty of looks that are light on OLB usage.
6. This isn’t rocket science but if the Jets can win the turnover battle and win the special teams battle, they have enough to escape with an “upset” victory in week 1.
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