Complete coverage of Gang Green

Jets Must Throw Deep, Run Hard to Beat Bengals

Jets take on 5-2 Cincinnati Bengals and look to shake inconsistent ways

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Jets quarterback Geno Smith has played quite differently in wins and losses

    Alternating wins and losses all season long, the pattern would dictate the Jets are due to lose Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals. But it doesn't necessarily have to be that way.

    It starts with quarterback Geno Smith. In the four games the Jets have won this season, Smith has completed 60.8 percent of his passes while throwing for seven touchdowns and four interceptions. In their three losses, his numbers drop to 55.3-percent with one touchdown pass and seven interceptions.

    There's a big discrepancy in him running the ball as well. Smith has run for 114 yards on 19 attempts in victories and just nine times for 32 yards in losses.

    Cincinnati could have some matchup issues for Smith to take advantage of as they'll be without starting cornerback Leon Hall. Though he's expected to play, fellow corner Terence Newman has been limited a bit in practice this week with an ankle injury. The Jets are starting to get some solid production out of their receivers and they should benefit from a banged up Bengals secondary. Throwing a few deep balls early might help the Jets jump out to an early lead.

    All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins is going to be a big factor in just how much time Smith has to throw. Smith has been sacked the second-most times of any quarterback and rookie guard Brian Winters will have the tough assignment of trying to slow down Atkins for much of the day.

    If the Jets can protect Smith and get something going in the passing game, they will keep linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga honest. Burfict leads the NFL in tackles and by forcing them to stay back in coverage, it could open up some space when rushing the ball.

    While the Jets probably won't run 52 times again like they did last week, keeping drives alive and taking the crowd out of the game with an efficient ground attack are vital on the road.

    Shutting down Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is also essential if the Jets plan on winning. Green and Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton rank in the Top 10 in a host of passing categories and you can expect the duo to target the struggling Antonio Cromartie. Perhaps looking to keep his confidence level up, Jets coach Rex Ryan has gone out of his way to praise Cromartie's effort last week against the New England Patriots. But Cromartie spent most of the day covering a rookie and New England didn't throw his way much. Green won't have much of a size advantage but his speed could cause some problems as Cromartie has struggled keeping up with faster receivers.

    The Jets have also had their issues covering opposing tight ends and the Bengals have a couple of good ones. Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert have been creating headaches for defenses this season, combining for 50 catches. The reason the Patriots didn't go after Cromartie is because they threw in tight end Rob Gronkowski's direction 17 times. Finding a way to neutralize Gresham and Eifert and limit the damage is a must.

    Getting pressure on Dalton and forcing him out of the pocket might not be easy against Cincinnati's solid offensive line but the Jets have the personnel up front to make it happen. Muhammad Wilkerson has been a disruptive force for a unit that ranks third in sacks. The more uncomfortable they can make Dalton, the less success he'll have getting the ball to his receivers.

    A win won't be simple against a very good Bengals team but it would be nice to see the Jets at least play well coming off a victory for a change. Things like capitalizing on the strength of their defensive line or having Smith pick apart a wounded defensive backfield will likely be the key ingredients in keeping Gang Green in the game.

    As great of a story as the Jets have been, the conclusion of this game marks the halfway point of the year and it has gotten a bit tiring wondering which team will show up each week. Inconsistency has been the only consistent trait the team has shown and that's a habit they need to kick. An impressive performance on the road would be a nice way of closing out the first half of the season.

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