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Gameday Live 16: Bengals at Jets

Mark Sanchez and Thomas Jones celebrate Jones' touchdown

Mark Sanchez and Thomas Jones celebrate Jones' touchdown run to give the Jets a 7-0 lead in the first quarter against Cincinnati. (January 3, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

Give us your tired, your fed-up, your huddled masses of misery yearning to breathe free. Send these, the hopeless, jaded and grief-stricken to me. And I will chat with them. Stephen Haynes here for the 16th and what could be the season's final installment of GDL. So join us, won't you. Come for the stats, updates and useless pre-game analysis, stay for the jibber-jabber.

Also check out Bobby Bonett and Anthony Castellano who'll be providing on-the-spot Twitter updates. We've got this game covered like a team of Revises.

Through the glory and shame, triumph and pain, through all the highs and lows, the surprises and chokes they came. To this point. And it all comes down to this: the mustiest must-win of the season. At least twice the Jets have had their season toe tagged, the loss mourned and the team moved on from. That dental floss they were rappelling with in the second half snapped; in no time they burned up those L's they had to ration like a canteen in the dessert. But here they are – still they stand. More than an alley cat on its 10th life. MacGyver, Gloria Gaynor, Boris the Blade in "Snatch" – they have survived and endured and lived to see Week 17 relevance.

And it wasn't all of their doing, so let's not get carried away. More than once have the Jets' chances received CPR, only for them to dive right back into the tidal wave. Perhaps Serendipity is smitten and Lady Luck is fond of green. Because this team, with its rookie quarterback and rookie coach (both of whom have dripped water from their ears) and its key injuries and its mistakes and failures and its should've-been-wins that were losses, shouldn't be in this position. The same conference that denied the 11-5 Patriots playoff entry last season, turning them away like the village leper, has opened its chamber door and offered the Jets entrance. Ain't they charmed.

Last week was like Murphy's Anarchy: anything that could've gone right for the Jets (8-7) did. Jim Caldwell held his horses in the second half, allowing them to come back against the Colts. The Steelers found a pulse just in time to beat the Ravens. Tom Brady emerged from his slump and the Patriots stomped the Jaguars. The Dolphins had the clock run out in their comeback attempt against the Texans. And the Broncos lost a close one to the Eagles, just for good measure. This punts away the playoff permutations, allowing the Jets to "control their own destiny." (Tangent: Never liked that phrase. Destiny, by definition, is something that's predetermined, inevitable and out of one's control. If a team is destined to fail, there's nothing they can do to prevent that outcome. We need a new way of saying that a team's success is independent of outside factors.)

A lot of fans and the coach don't like hearing it, but there's no way around it: the Jets would be backing their way into the playoffs. You can hear the intermittent beeping like when a FedEx truck reverses. They'd be backing it up Juvenile style. They've already fallen butt-backwards into fortuity. But there's a saying, "Get in where you fit in." And a wise man once said, "Some people get on the bus and ride in the front. Some people get on the bus and get on the back. Don't matter, as long as you're on the bus." Word up! Whether you're the weakest strong guy or the strongest weakling doesn't matter if we're all arm wrestling. (Hermism 101) A postseason berth means the team has done enough to be one of the top six teams in its conference, if even just rising an inch above mediocrity. So it doesn't matter.

The stench from last week's Giants performance has been aired out of the stadium and the Jets have the chance to close in grand fashion. One win, against a team that has little more to play for than stats, and the Jets get their hand stamped. One win and this messy, muddled season is washed and they step into the postseason fresh and clean, 0-0, like everybody else who's earned the right. They have a chance to make this season, with all its issues and all their flaws, something of a stepping stone.

Lemme get corny (well, cornier) for a moment.

This is your time. This is your dance.
Live every moment. Leave nothing to chance.
Swim in the sea. Drink of the deep.
Embrace the mystery of all you can be. -- Michael W. Smith (YouTube it)

OK, back to our regularly scheduled rambling.


According to reports, the Bengals (10-5) might only play Carson Palmer one quarter. His backup is J.T. O'Sullivan, who has appeared in one game this season and completed one of three passes for nine yards. Though he's played in just 16 games, O'Sullivan is 30, has been in the league since 2002 and has some talent. He's got an adequate arm, decent accuracy and, though he isn't a scrambler, is nimble in the pocket. He's more prepared to play than Curtis Painter, that's for sure.

Much has been made of Chad Ochocinco prodding Darrelle Revis during the week. Hey, it's just what Chad does. He's gonna talk a little trash and hype the game up and himself even though Marvin Lewis will probably only play him for a half, despite what 85 says. He is chasing some numbers, though. He's a touchdown away from tying his career high and needs 120 yards to keep from having his fewest in a full season since his first full season in 2002. Small stuff, but you know he knows it. But between truncated playing time, the plan for Palmer's early exit, a likely conservative game plan and, uh, Revis, it probably won't happen. If you're wondering: Ochocinco has faced Revis twice. In their first meeting – 2007, Revis' rookie year – Chad Johnson had three catches for 102 yards. However, Revis wasn't yet the full-time left cornerback. Johnson beat David Barrett for a 56-yarder and Kerry Rhodes for 29 yards. In the second meeting, last season, Ochocinco had five catches for 57 yards. But only two catches for 29 yards were counted against Revis. But then Ochocinco was injured and miserable last year and the quarterback was Ryan Fitzpatrick. So this game, at least in the first quarter, will be the first matchup in which both players at the top of their games. And if you're not reading this blog come game time, you have no life!

The Jets have won six of the last seven meetings and are 14-7 against the Bengals all-time. That record includes the playoffs. Which holds some significance, since if the Jets win tonight it'll be Cincinnati they draw in the first round. Well, actually, Cinic's 'A' team + full effort.

The teams are pretty similar. Both are reliant on the defense and have conservative, run-heavy offenses. The Jets defense ranks 1st in yards and points per game (which is the one that counts) and the Bengals are fourth and fifth in those categories, respectively. The Jets have held quarterbacks to a league-low 61.0 rating against and the Bengals have them at 74.0… The Jets secondary is led by Revis, the 14th pick of the '07 draft. Leon Hall, who went four picks behind him, leads the Bengals'. Funny enough, there was debate leading up to the draft over which cornerback was the better prospect (I was in the Hall camp, btw). Though it's widely agreed that Revis has been the best cover man in the league this season, the basic stats are comparable. Revis: 54 tackles, 31 pass deflections, 6 INTs. Hall: 67 tackles, 24 pass deflections, 6 INTs… The Jets are averaging a league-best 166.6 yards per game rushing and the Bengals are sixth at 132.3. Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, his former understudy with the Bears, even have similar running styles… The only stark difference between the sides (ode to international soccer) is the play of the quarterbacks. The Bengals offense still has weapons, but the passing game hasn't been nearly as explosive as it once was. Palmer is averaging just 6.8 yards per completion (less than Sanchez's 6.84) and his 455 attempts are 19th in the league. They ain't chuckin' it like they used to. But he has thrown 21 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions (lost two fumbles) while Mark Sanchez has 12 touchdowns, an AFC-leading 20 intos and has lost three of his 10 fumbles. However, the quarterbacks don't figure to be much of a factor in this one.

And because I always include it: The Bengals are #2 against the run, yielding just 87.7 yards per game and holding teams to 3.8 per carry. But they are giving up 5.16 yards per on the right side. How are the overall numbers so good despite that hole? Because they're only allowing 2.91 per carry on the left side. If you've wondered about the Jets' splits: They're ninth against the run overall at 100.4 yards per game. They plug it up on the left side (Shaun Ellis) at 3.23 YPC and are most vulnerable on the right end (at Marques Douglas), giving up 4.56 per. On the other side, they're having the most success – 5.0 YPC – running to the right, between Brandon Moore and Damien Woody.

Not to pick at a wound that's probably still fresh, but last season the Jets also went into the final week with playoff hopes. They didn't "control their own destiny" like they do now, though. And that game went 24-17, Dolphins. The Ol' Gunslinger was 20-for-40 with 200 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Alright, I've already gone there just by including this paragraph, but I won't go there-there by posting Favre's stats from today's game.

* Wouldn't it just be Jetsian for them to build a lead against the Bengals starters and then have the backups chip away at it in the second half? And in the final minutes, O'Sullivan leads a long drive that culminates with him hitting Laveranues Coles for a touchdown to give Cincinnati the lead, 24-23, with 0:01 on the clock. The second left would be so the fans can be teased a little with the hope of a touchdown on the kickoff return… I'm just playing. A little morbid humor for the pessimists and farther-gone SOJers.

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