In a game between Cincy Joe (Burrow) and Jersey Joe (Flacco) at the home of Broadway Joe (Namath), the Bengals are looking to live up to their name of defending AFC champs Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) at MetLife Stadium.
In its first sweep of the season, the Bengals.com Media Roundtable backs Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in his bid to turn around a season that has started with his team becoming the first in the Super Bowl era to lose each of the first two games as time ran out.
The clock is still running on our Jets contingent of ESPN.com's Rich Cimini and The New York Post's Steve Serby. If it seems like they have been covering the NFL since the days of Paul Brown and Bill Parcells, they have with a combined nine decades on the beat in New York. Serby, The Post's 50-year icon, has told Bengals.com that he expects Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase to control the Jersey skies. Cimini, who covered a former Bengals tight end coaching the Jets in Bruce Coslet and two Jets quarterbacks who went to the Pro Bowl as Bengals in Boomer Esiason and Jeff Blake, calls this one for Burrow in his matchup with an evolving Jets secondary.
Both Cincinnati scribes, Kelsey Conway of The Cincinnati Enquirer and James Rapien of Sports Illustrated's AllBengals.com, project Burrow taking control of this game from start to finish. Particularly the start.
Let's go around The Table. As always, ladies and visitors first.
I think the Bengals are going to win the toss, start with the ball on offense, score early and play with a lead the whole game. Even if they don't win the toss, because of Joe Burrow saying this week they can't go down 0-3, they still win this game. As far as right tackle goes, I think you'd rather have a healthy Hakeem Adeniji than a 50 percent La'el Collins. The Jets defensive line is sneaky good, but I think the interior guys are going to get more of the pressure from the Jets. I don't think it's as scary as what the Cowboys were doing on the pass rush.
THE EDGE: Joe Burrow has his best game of the season, BENGALS, 31-14
The Jets are going to jump to an early lead based on the fact the Bengals have trouble scoring early with no touchdowns in the first half. I can see the Jets building on the momentum of last week and getting off to a good start, but I see the Bengals coming back.
Except for the Two-Minute Miracle at the end last week, the Jets have not been a great fourth-quarter team. I can see them letting it slip away.
I think the Jets have a more talented secondary than last year, but they've had one big communication error in each of the first two games that resulted in touchdowns. Last week it was rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner and the safety on that side (Jordan Whitehead) and they ended up giving a touchdown to Amari Cooper. They're still working through some growing pains there. I know Burrow has had trouble throwing the ball down field, but if he can get some time, he might be able to have some success down field.
THE EDGE: The Jet defense has not been great and also the desperation factor are reasons to go with the Bengals. They know they can't go in an 0-3 hole and I think the Jets' win last week camouflaged some of the issues they've had. The Bengals have just too much skill position talent to be 0-3. BENGALS, 27-20
I see the Bengals doing a better job protecting Mr. Burrow and I see a big game for Ja'Marr Chase, which is not earth-shattering, but I think he's due for a monster game. Chase isn't going to be awed by Sauce Gardner, who is a terrific young talent, but he'll have a big size advantage on the 5-9 D.J. Read on the other side. Chase is going to a problem no matter what. If Sauce is matched up on Chase, then you've got 6-4 Tee Higgins on the 5-9 Reed. That's a problem.
Look, I expect a better defensive effort from the Jets. They struggled against the first two opponents and obviously Bengals running back Joe Mixon is going to get heavily involved after the Browns rushed for 184 yards last week. I'm going to give the Jets 24 points because they've got this rising star wide receiver Garrett Wilson and I expect him to do some damage. He's just a tremendous talent. They didn't involve him much in the opener, but he went off against the Browns last week and quarterback Joe Flacco is going to be targeting him early and often, I believe.
THE EDGE: I just think its desperation time for the Bengals. They're defending AFC champs. I think they're a prideful group and I think this is a dangerous opponent for the Jets. I think the Bengals find a way to win. I don't like from a Jets' perspective a desperate 0-2 team that's been reading about having a Super Bowl hangover. This is a get-right game for the Bengals. BENGALS, 27-24
I think the Bengals start faster. If they had started faster in either of these last two games, I don't think it would have been that result. If they're not playing catch up, I think they'll be good enough. That starts with scoring in the first half. Bold prediction. I think the Bengals score a touchdown the first half. They should be able to run the ball. As good as Carl Lawson is as an edge rusher, I don't think he's seen as strong against the run. So, to the edges. Does La'el Collins play? If you want to help the line, go with the ground game and I think that opens up some things. They should be able to do that and open it up for a Chase against Sauce Gardner and you can keep Carl Lawson and Quinnen Williams at bay. If the Bengals get down, Lawson is going to be able to pin his ears back and you don't won't that.
The Jets have the best offense I think the Bengals have seen this season. They have some questions on their offensive line, so this could be a Trey Hendrickson game on the edge for the Bengals. Bengals nose tackle D.J. Reader has played great. Flacco is certainly capable of getting the explosive Garrett Wilson the ball. They have dangerous running backs like Breece Hall, Michael Carter. The Jets will get some points.
THE EDGE: The Bengals lead wire-to-wire and they get off to a quick start. A close game, but they get it done. I don't think Burrow goes 0-3. I've learned not to bet against him so I'm not going to bet against him this week.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Not a great time to be catching the Jets at home as they come off last week's Two-Minute Miracle with two Joe Flacco touchdown passes in the last 1:22, the last coming to rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson with 22 seconds left from 15 yards out. But it might be better now than, say, 2023, when guys like Wilson and fellow first-rounder, cornerback Sauce Gardner, and second-rounder, running back Breece Hall, have been around awhile because they look like they're eventually going to be a handful.
No doubt the Halloween tape of last season has been chopped into little pieces on both sides and if you're the Bengals you have to be looking at those 15 missed tackles in the 34-31 loss to the Jets last season. Running back Michael Carter was the main beneficiary of those with 77 yards rushing and 99 yards receiving and even though the Bengals are facing Joe Flacco in his 179th start instead of Mike White in his first, you have to figure the Jets are going to make them tackle in space. But the Bengals have been very good out of the gate at getting people down early in this season. In fact, the Bengals defense has been good at pretty much everything this season.
Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has high regard for the Jets backs and why not? It's a small sample size, but Carter is averaging 4.9 per 17 carries and Hall 5.6 per 13 carries. Linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither (two of last year's missed tackles) probably gets the start in place of the injured Germaine Pratt and he brings some nice speed to a matchup that is one to watch.
It would look to be a good time for the Bengals to unleash their pass rush against the savvy but not fleet Flacco. But opposing quarterbacks have been getting it out of their hand quickly and that's what Flacco has done in racking up two 300-yard games to start the season. But he can go deep and he'll take a shot or two at Wilson (last week the first Jets rookie in history with 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns) early if the Bengals aren't getting to him. But Cincy has been good deep, where they really haven't given up anything longer than 32 yards.
(Cowboys running back Tony Pollard had a 46-yarder last week that was basically a jet sweep.)
But all eyes are on the Bengals offense. Last week was the first time since his rookie year Burrow failed to generate more than 20 points in back-to-back game. No one expected a season to start with Burrow getting outscored by teams with backups in Mitch Trubisky and Cooper Rush and now here's another so-called backup in Flacco, but not really.
It looks like right tackle La'el Collins is going to be a game-time decision, but either way the numbers suggest it's a better matchup for the Cincy O-line than the first two weeks.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Jets are tied for 24th with 15 pressures, tied for 20th in pressure percentage and are 19th in pass rush grades. Old friend Carl Lawson on the right edge is getting his feet under him after missing all last season with an Achilles' injury, but if the Bengals get behind he'll have a chance to leave his calling card. Bengals left tackle Jonah Williams knows all about Lawson's crazy quick first step from practice.
Cleveland runs it on everybody, but the Bengals want to show they're better than 3.8 yards per carry, too. The Jets have a terrific pair of defensive tackles in Sheldon Rankins and Quinnen Williams and there are murmurings in the New York sporting press about comparing Williams to Jets' Pro Football Hall of Fame senior nominee Joe Klecko. That kind of interior matchup has been tough on the Bengals lately, but the PFF grades are solid inside for the Bengals with center Ted Karras tied for fifth and Alex Cappa 13th and rookie Cordell Volson 34th out of 82 guards.
The big question is how do the Jets attack the Bengals wide receivers with the cornerback opposite Gardner the 5-9 D.J. Reed. Via PFF, last week Gardner allowed a touchdown in primary coverage for the first time in his college and NFL career on a six-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper. They've left Gardner on the left outside for most of his snaps instead of shadowing anybody while the Bengals have lined up Chase everywhere (38.0 percent at right outside, 36.1 at left outside, 10.1 at left slot, 9.5 at right slot) and according to Next Gen Stats, Chase leads the NFL in yards when aligned wide since he came into the league last season.
Chase needs 101 yards Sunday to pass his LSU buddy Justin Jefferson for the second most receiving yards in the first 20 games of a career. Another guy from LSU, Odell Beckham, Jr., is too far away at 322 yards. But 101 is a good number. The Bengals are 6-2 when Chase catches at least 100 yards.
As everyone wonders if the Bengals take the ball if they win the coin toss to end the slow starts, the game probably comes down to if the Bengals can flip the turnovers instead of the coin. They've allowed five and have one themselves. Times and teams have changed, but it's still Flacco back there and the Bengals are 11-9 against him while intercepting him 25 times. They got him at least twice in seven of those games and are 6-1.