Broadway Fitz Takes Stage

If you thought the Bengals were underdogs before, what about now that it is Brett the Jet vs. Broadway Ryan Fitzpatrick at the Meadowlands?

The Bengals.com roundtable agrees, but they won't sell Cincinnati short on the road.

"Fitzpatrick will play better than he did against Cleveland because he practiced all week," says The Eye, an NFL scout familiar with the AFC East. "Plus, he's got Chris Henry."

"You have to favor the Jets, but I think Arizona and the Chargers showed that you can move the ball on them," says The Guru, a former NFL football exec, of teams that put a combined 83 points on New York. "The Jets are a good team, but they're not as good as the Giants or Cowboys and the Bengals could have beaten both. This game can tell you a lot where Cincinnati is going. They're coming off three hard games and they could have won all three. But they have to start winning to keep guys' attention. They're obviously playing hard for Marvin (Lewis). But if you don't start winning, how much more are they going to listen to?"

WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Jets S Abram Elam
Fitzpatrick

Elam is playing for the suspended Eric Smith after Smith got hit for his hit on the Cards' Anquan Boldin. Elam started eight games last year but The Eye says "he's been on the field very briefly for them."

The Eye thinks Fitzpatrick's ability to run can be a problem for the Jets secondary. At 225 pounds, Fitzpatrick battered the Browns on some key third downs and the New York secondary has allowed foes to complete nearly 70 percent of their passes at nearly eight yards a pop.

"He certainly doesn't have a gun. He doesn't have Carson's arm, but he's got a good arm," The Eye says. "He's accurate. He's a Trent Dilfer kind of guy that has to make smart throws. He was really in a bind against Cleveland when he had only one day of reps. The full week should really help him."

C Eric Ghiaciuc vs. Jets NT Kris Jenkins
Ghiaciuc

The matchup of the game.

Last year Ghiaciuc was able to abuse Jets nose tackle Dewayne Robertson enough that running back Kenny Watson ran for a career-high 130 yards. The Jets chose to double both wide receivers Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and stop the run with seven guys instead of eight. They couldnt do it and it's a reason the Jets shopped Robertson in the offseason (he couldn't cut the Bengals physical) and gave Carolina picks in the third and fifth rounds.

The 360-pound Jenkins had issues in Carolina that made teams like the Bengals leery. But a $750,000 weight incentive has helped anchor a fine start. When the Jets held the Pats to 3.3 yards rushing last month on 32 carries, Jenkins made a day out of ripping though Pro Bowlers Logan Mankins at guard and Dan Koppen at center as a powerful two-gapper. He's got four tackles for loss and blocked a Neil Rackers field goal two weeks ago.

"That's not exactly Ghiaciuc's strong suit. He's not big enough. He has trouble with big guys," The Guru says.

The Eye says Jenkins isn't nearly as athletic as Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth and he's not as good as Cleveland's Shaun Rogers.

"But the same idea. Big, strong guy in a similar defense that can two-gap you," he says.

Note: Ghiaciuc held up against Jenkins in '06 when the Bengals ran for 112 yards in a 17-14 win over the Panthers.

Ts Levi Jones and Stacy Andrews vs. Jets OLB Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas
Jones

Pace and Thomas have combined for 6.5 sacks with the 266-pound Thomas getting four of them with an impressive bull rush. At a very athletic 270 pounds Pace, who figures to be over Jones quite a bit but does switch sides, has paid dividends since leaving Arizona for New York's free-agent riches. Some have compared him to a young Willie McGinest as he gets around the edge, a nice complement to Thomas.

"The linebacker I really like for them is David Harris," says The Guru of one of New York's inside backers. "It looks like he can do a bunch of things for them."

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Jets CB Drew Coleman
Houshmandzadeh

This is the matchup in the slot that should favor the Bengals. Coleman is listed at 5-9, 175 pounds, but the Eye says he's closer to 5-7.

"T.J. is a lot more physical and bigger (6-2, 200) and Antonio Chatman would also be a good matchup for them there," The Eye says and The Guru says, "The Bengals have some good matchups against them in the back end. No question Darrelle Revis is their best corner. He's physical and he's probably going to get Chad."

It didn't take Houshmandzadeh long to get back into his niche and that may cause Coleman trouble when the Bengals spread it on passing downs. He's leading the AFC in third-down receiving, is second in the NFL (12 balls for 159 yards), and he's tied with his Steelers double Hines Ward for the league lead of three third-down TDs.

Henry's downfield moves may be a good match here since the Jets are down a safety. The other starting corner, Dwight Lowery, is New York's only rookie starter on defense as a fourth-round pick. He's done OK, but he went in the fourth round because of his speed.

WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Ss Chinedum Ndukwe and Marvin White vs. Jets QB Brett Favre
Ndukwe

"As dangerous as ever," The Guru says. "That has to worry the Bengals a little bit because their secondary is so young. Favre obviously proved against Arizona (six TD passes) his last time out that he can still throw it. And he's got a Favre favorite in (tight end) Bubba Franks. Same thing, there will be a couple of plays he'll give you a chance to intercept him and you have to take advantage."

The Eye actually thinks the young Bengals safeties have played with pretty good discipline, but they will be tested with Favre's festival of pump-fakes.

"You have to keep your eye on the quarterback and be aware of the receivers," The Eye says. "Your head has to be on a swivel. If a play breaks down and you think Favre is going to run, he's liable to throw it right over your head."

His 12 to 4 TD to INT ratio speaks of the 1990s and even the four picks haven't been all that bad. The refs blew one of them. He had a free play on an offsides and chucked it across the field, but no flag was thrown.

And that's another thing. He loves to look off defenders and then come right back at them. So White has to avoid last week's mistake where he gave up the angle to Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens on the 57-yard TD off a crossing route.

RB Cedric Benson vs. Jets RB Thomas Jones
Benson

As they say, these two guys really don't like each other after Jones beat out Benson in Chicago and the Bears still traded him. Jones is frustrated with his 3.8 yards per carry this year and the fact the Jets have run it only 39 times in the last two games.

"These are two guys (Jones and Leon Washington) who try to make you miss," The Eagle says. "It's a lot different than the backs they've faced this year like Jamal Lewis, Marion Barber, Brandon Jacobs, guys that have just put their shoulders down. Even the fullback Baltimore used (Le'Ron McClain). This will be a different look."

The Guru thinks the Benson move for the Bengals is intriguing.

"He's more of a downhill guy than Chris Perry, but not as much as Rudi Johnson," The Guru says. "He's got better running skills than Rudi. My only question is the character thing because they've said they were going to move on from that, but they must be satisfied. I thought the Bears offensive line wasn't very good for a couple of years and I think that could have affected him."

DT John Thornton vs. Jets LG Alan Faneca
Thornton

Thornton laughed when asked about Faneca, his old-time Pro Bowl rival from the Steelers.

"That's next week, isn't it?" asked Thornton of the Oct. 19 game against the Steelers at PBS.

Thornton is interested to see how the Jets respond to the Bengals 4-3 defense, the first 4-3 defense New York has seen this year.

"I think you'll probably see Faneca pull more than he has. That's one of his strengths. He's very athletic," Thornton said. "Obviously Brett is the difference from last year for them. They throw the ball downfield a little bit more.

"But I think they'll go back to what they've been running when they play us. Same thing with Cleveland. Cleveland had a lot more different runs against us. It will take us a little bit to adjust. All the runs will end up being the same; they'll just start off a little differently."

That's one of the reasons the Browns ran it for 60 yards on eight plays in the opening drive and put Fitzpatrick down immediately, 3-0.

Faneca has proven to be a good stabilizer for New York's young left tackle, D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

CBs Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph vs. Jets WRs Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery
Hall

Both guys went deep for scores against the Bengals last year even though neither of them can really burn it.

"But they've got good size and they can jump in traffic and make the catches and they can still get behind you," The Eye says.

Favre doesn't have a favorite. Each has 18 catches and one catch of at least 50 yards while combining for seven TDs.

And their chemistry is starting to get scary. After Favre broke one huddle, as he walked to the line he asked Coles what route he could beat his man with. A few seconds later Favre said he threw the first fade of his NFL career that went for a touchdown.

The Bengals have been decent against the pass. They've given up only six TD throws in five games and the yards per attempt against them is a solid 6.1. And Joseph should be able to play all the way for the first time since injuring his ankle Sept. 14.

"The Bengals secondary is playing pretty well," The Guru says. "They've had some mistakes, but guys like Hall and Ndukwe have done a nice job for them."

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