The Jets have scraped and clawed for each of their past three wins. They’ll need to keep the nails sharp on Thursday night when they host a desperate Bengals team with nothing to lose at New Meadowlands Stadium (Thursday, 8:20 p.m., WPIX, NFLN).
Cincinnati (2-8) has ranged from brilliant to dismal during their seven-game losing streak, wasting a sometimes potent passing offense and finding ever more creative ways to lose. The Bengals, however, could be well rested and more motivated after a scoreless second half in Sunday’s 49-31 home loss to Buffalo.
Rex Ryan and the Jets (8-2) should aim for that elusive fast start to put the disheartened Bengals away early, similar to last year’s 37-0 drubbing in Week 17 that secured Gang Green’s 2009 playoff berth.
Jam the middle
With star cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie shadowing Bengals top receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco (combined 112 catches, 1,478 yds., 12 TDs), the Jets will have to keep rookies Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley from darting across the middle of the defense. Rookie nickelback Kyle Wilson will need steady safety support to limit any yards after the catch.
A chance to stride
Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson are looking to rebuild the Jets’ running rhythm, and Cincinnati’s defense might provide the perfect beat. The Bengals have allowed 15 rushes of 20 yards or more this season, and teams have marched into the end zone 10 times in their past eight games. Greene and LT could find little resistance at the line of scrimmage, especially if the defense respects the Jets receivers’ big-play ability.
Open doors for Holmes
Sanchez’s budding relationship with clutch receiver Santonio Holmes should keep the banged-up Bengals on their heels and prevent them from stacking the box against the run. Sanchez has thrown for more than 300 yards in two of his past three games, and Holmes surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark in both, bringing his total to 12 catches for 316 yards and three scores during the Jets’ three-game winning streak.
Sacking the blitz
Rex Ryan probably won’t temper his overload blitz packages, but the overly aggressive approach has been the Achilles heel of the Jets' defense. Opponents have countered Gang Green’s pass rush with running back screens and quick slant routes. With Palmer’s inaccuracy, it may be more prudent to confuse his coverage reads than to blitz — and leave his check-down option open.