Thursday, January 7, 2010

2010 NFL Playoff Preview: Wild Card Weekend – Jets at Bengals

The 2010 NFL playoffs begin this Saturday. I’ll gaze into my crystal ball and try to predict the outcome of each game, while also providing you with an in-depth preview and broadcast information. Saturday’s coverage starts at 4pm with NBC’s Football Night in America before a doubleheader on the network.

New York Jets @ Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, 4:30pm, NBC
Tom Hammond, Joe Theissman and Joe Gibbs in the booth. Tiki Barber on the sidelines.

We all saw what happened Sunday night when these two faced in the regular season finale. The Jets absolutely dominated the game from start to finish, but for the most part it was the Jets’ first string doing so against the Bengals’ bench players. Carson Palmer and the rest of Cincinnati’s offense did not look good while they were out there but the team may have been saving some of its best stuff for a rematch with the Jets, which they knew would happen if the Jets won.

Now we get the real thing.

The Jets have one of the best defenses in the National Football League and one of the best cornerbacks in the game in Darrelle Revis. Cincinnati’s game, however, doesn’t revolve around the passing attack anymore. Sure, Chad Ochocinco is still a big threat but the 2009 Bengals have been all about Cedric Benson and the rushing game. The key to their success on Saturday will be if they can get Benson and his backfield mates Larry Johnson and Bernard Scott going.

One of the problems for the Jets this season has been their passing game, more specifically the inconsistent play of Mark Sanchez and the usual ball-dropping by Braylon Edwards. When the Jets have looked good it’s because Sanchez has played smart, not throwing careless picks and protecting the ball, while letting Thomas Jones do the heavy lifting.

As much as Sanchez can be the ultimate rookie in terms of making mistakes, he does seem to play well in the big game situations. He beat the Patriots in his first shot at them early this season then stumbled under the weight of high expectations. All he needs to do now is manage the game, the infamous quarterback credo, and allow the defense and running backs to do the hard work.

As good as the Bengals are and as much adversity as they’ve overcome as a team, they’ve also played very poorly against some bad teams. While Cincinnati swept the Steelers and Ravens, they lost to the Raiders and barely beat the Chiefs, Lions and Browns. I’m sure the Bengals will play much better than they did last week but I see them coming up short in Cincinnati.

Prediction: Jets 21, Bengals 17

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