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New York Jets vs Cincinnati Bengals

In NFL on January 6, 2010 at 8:30 pm

The Jets and the Bengals are another pair who met in Week 17, but as their match up was about as relevant as Cheryl Cole’s views on climate change, I won’t bother breaking it down.

One potentially ruinous incident for the Bengals though, was Chad Ochocinco pulling up and slinking off with a knee injury. Up to that point, he had been shut down with ease by Darrelle Revis’ smothering coverage, but he is a key element in the Cincy offense. Without him to stretch the secondary and come up with the key plays, they look worryingly impotent in attack. Laveranues Coles is a safe pair of hands, but can he win a game?

Colourful receiver Chad Ochocinco is struggling for fitness ahead of Saturday's match-up

A more pertinent question might be, can Carson Palmer get the ball to him? Palmer is one of the weakest quarterbacks in the playoffs, and the Jets’ reckless blitzing left him with comical stats of 1-11 with 0 yards and a pick last week. If he’s denied his go-to weapon again, either by injury or Revis, then the Bengals could be de-clawed once more.

Their running game will get yards, as they boast one of the year’s outstanding comeback players in Cedric Benson, and Larry Johnson has shown that he’s still dangerous. But I doubt if this Jets team will be beaten on the ground.

Cedric Benson has been one of the league's most improved players

New York is the home of the league’s number one defense this year, and you can be sure it doesn’t belong to the shrinking Giants, who came up short when it mattered. The Jets were fortunate to make the post-season, but their D is for real. They have a top notch pass-rushing unit, arguably the best corner around in Revis, and they always make it hard to score.

Unfortunately for them, Mark Sanchez is down there with  Palmer on the list of least effective playoff QB’s. In fairness, the rookie has shown a lot of upside, and could easily evolve into an excellent leader. But he’s not there yet, and he’s going to be passing into the teeth of an excellent Bengals secondary. You have to be worried about a rookie player’s decision making under pressure, and pressure doesn’t come any more intense than a road playoff game against elite corners.

Mark Sanchez has had an impressive rookie year, but is he ready for the play-offs?

Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph have shown that they can shut down even the best wide receivers. So they shouldn’t have too much trouble getting on top of the Jets speedsters. Braylon Edwards is just as likely to drop a sitter as pull off a big play, and Jerricho Cotchery is not going to strike fear in an opponent either. Dustin Keller is a solid tight end, but again, is he a match-winner?

The running game is the key for this team’s hopes, and the workhorse Thomas Jones has had a fantastic season. On the back of his efforts, the Jets have the no.1 rushing offense. That is largely down to the power running of Jones, but also some creative play calling which has kept teams guessing. Last week, they used rookie Shonn Greene and receiver Brad Smith in the wildcat to rip the Bengals apart. Unfortunately, they can’t rely on the kind of woeful tackling which allowed them to score at will against the sleepy cats.

Running back Thomas Jones could hold the key to the Jets' play-off hopes

The Bengals have to wake up this week, and in front of a jubilant home crowd making the most of a rare trip to the playoffs, they will play with their heart and soul. With Robert Geathers and Domata Peko also returning from injury to boost the defensive line, they have a good chance of snapping out of their recent defensive skid. That skid has seen them give up over 100 yards on the ground in three of their last four games.

If they keep Mr Tom Jones and co in double figures, they’ll be halfway to the Divisional game.

I see the Jets getting their yards on the ground, but faltering in the passing game as Sanchez makes some bad decisions. This should lead to some key turnovers as the Bengals do just enough to scrape the win in a dogfight.

Defences win championships, but with a rookie and an average vet in the cockpit, don’t expect either of these sides to progress to the big one.

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