Since taking over the team, Eric Mangini has the New York Jets undefeated after the bye week. In 2006, they carved the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. In 2007, the hometown Jets upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in front of a crowd of terrible towels.
It’s been a tradition in New York for the team to start off slowly, only to explode, after their week of rest. The defense plays more aggressively, and the offense executes in a much more synchronized fashion.
This year’s bye week came at the most opportune moment. For the first time in Mangini’s tenure, the Jets were taking a week off after an impressive victory. Throwing 56 points on the scoreboard against the Arizona Cardinals was a solid foundation for New York to build on for the rest of the season.
However, the defense allowing 35 second-half points nearly soured Brett Favre’s coming out party. It’s time for the Jets’ defense to make the same statement the offense made against Arizona.
And what better opponent to do that against than the winless Cincinnati Bengals, right?
Picking Up Where They Left Off
Six offensive touchdowns! Take a moment to soak that in a bit more. The New York Jets’ offense produced six touchdowns in one game.
The spark that was supposed to be Brett Favre became a fuel-induced blaze in one afternoon.
Laveranues Coles’s slow start had fans sucking their teeth in disgust. Knee-jerk reactions among Jets fans were inspiring images of a wide receiver unit without one of their warriors. People wanted to ship Coles away!
Now that the negativity has dissipated and fans have relaxed, it’s time to cheer again. Fans want to see the potent passing attack gain even more strength. And if reports out of Florham Park are accurate, the chemistry and relationship between Favre and his receivers is getting more comfortable by the day.
Favre has had no difficulty hitting multiple targets through his first four games on the Jets. And now, with an actual rapport to speak of with some of the team’s biggest threats, the offense can become more dangerous than it’s been in years.
Fans have to believe that a defense that has only produced three sacks in five games won’t be able to apply the pressure to disrupt Favre’s rhythm.
Play the Bengals As If They Are 5-0
The Jets took some criticism when they went for the touchdown on a 4th-and-1 against Arizona when the game was already out of reach. They took even more heat after scoring the two-point conversion.
That’s the approach the Jets need to continue against the Bengals.
With no wins, Cincinnati instantly becomes a very dangerous team—unless you’re the 1978 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Regardless, the Bengals are too talented to disregard because of their record alone.
Through five losses, the Bengals have faced some of the NFL’s toughest competition. Losing to the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, New York Giants, and Dallas Cowboys isn’t indicative of a pathetic team.
The Bengals have played close games against some of the best squads the 2008 season has to offer. Aside from the Titans game, the Bengals have only been a mistake or two away from victory each week.
NFL pundits will argue that those mistakes are what define them as bad team. But with such narrow margins of defeat, the Bengals could be 3-2, or even 4-1 just as easily as they’ve fallen to 0-5.
Playing without Carson Palmer doesn’t mean the Jets can take Cincinnati seriously. For the second time this season, New York will face a backup quarterback with minimal experience, and look to keep him from getting comfortable.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will start against the Jets, and will try rebound after a three-interception game in his last start against the Cleveland Browns.
Untimely turnovers and missed opportunities have defined the Bengals’ collapse in the first five weeks. The Jets have to believe that Cincy have done everything they can to correct their problems, and will be ready to play on Sunday.
Cutting the Field in Half
Chad Johnson has played like a shadow of himself in 2008. But as the third-leading receiver on his team, his statistical decline may be more of an indicator of the talent Cincinnati has at the other receiver positions.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh continues to be dangerous from anywhere on the field, and slot receiver Antonio Chatman has emerged as a legitimate threat to a defensive secondary. Add the return of Chris Henry, coupled with the Jets’ inability to properly cover short slants and screens, and the Bengals have the potential to kill the Jets slowly.
Second-year cornerback Darrelle Revis has made his opponents a non-factor on Sunday afternoons. He’s played tight coverage on some of the best receivers the NFL has to offer.
His refusal to be exposed by any quarterback has led to a team-high three interceptions and his first professional touchdown, against Arizona.
Rookie Dwight Lowery has also performed like a seasoned veteran, but he is susceptible to errors. Quarterbacks have honed in on him, and he’s made them pay at times. Lowery has managed to deflect his fair share of passes for underestimating him, and should be able to continue his impressive play against the inexperienced Fitzpatrick.
Coming out of the bye, the Jets should have made the appropriate adjustments to remedy their vulnerabilities through the air. The Jets’ pass rush has been quick and fierce, but the secondary has to be prepared for any improvisation when the quarterback is under pressure.
You Never Saw Him Coming
He’s the forgotten man. Fresh off a four-game suspension, Jesse Chatman should be returning to action on Sunday. After being a one-man show against the Philadelphia Eagles in the final preseason game, Chatman was sidelined by the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
And the Jets have missed him.
With a running game that’s struggling to find any kind of consistency after the first two weeks, Chatman will provide that tough, bowling ball dynamic the ground game has lacked.
After the Jets were embarrassed on the goal line by the New England Patriots, fans wanted to know if they’ll ever have the strong, lower-the-shoulder running back that can power through for yardage. Jesse Chatman is that player.
While Thomas Jones ran very well in the first two games, he’s back to his 2007 form.
He’s stuck on one rushing touchdown, scored against the Miami Dolphins. His running style, which involves bounces behind the line of scrimmage and quick cuts, has rarely provided the kind of production needed for an efficient rush attack.
Leon Washington has also seen limited success with the ball.
Chatman’s return could provide the change the Jets need to be successful on the ground. Throughout the preseason, he made a habit of fighting for yards. And realistically, that’s all Jets’ fans want to see out of their running backs.
A Bengals defense that’s allowing an average of 4.5 yards per carry may be the perfect opportunity for the running game to explode like the passing game did against the Cardinals.