Bengals can keep Jets out of playoffs with win
By Chris Altruda
For all the twists and turns and ups and downs the New York Jets have
had with first-year coach Rex Ryan and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez,
the scenario for them clinching a playoff berth is surprisingly simple.
Win and they’re in, lose and they’re out.
The Jets play the final regular-season game at Giants Stadium on Sunday
night against the Cincinnati Bengals, who may rest some key players
after already clinching the AFC North and could meet New York again in
the wild-card round.
After a discouraging
10-7 home loss to Atlanta on Dec. 20, the candid Ryan said the Jets
(8-7) were “obviously out of the playoffs” before correcting himself
the following day after learning the possible scenarios that could get
his team into the postseason.
scenarios were realized, and the Jets gained control of their playoff
destiny last Sunday with a 29-15 victory over previously unbeaten
Indianapolis. New York scored 19 unanswered points after the Colts –
assured of the AFC’s No. 1 seed heading into the game – pulled their
starters late in the third quarter.
don’t have to apologize about anything, and neither do we,” Ryan said.
“Every team wants to be in the situation where you control your own
destiny. But to have the opportunity to actually play the last game of
the season, the last regular-season game, with everything riding on it
in front of your fans, I think most teams would take that, sign up for
“If we win the game, we’re the fifth seed. If we don’t, we’re out. That’s the math that I can figure out.”
Assuming the Jets don’t get to host the AFC championship game, this
will be the final NFL contest at Giants Stadium. They’ve played 26
years there but will move into a new stadium next season.
New York’s chances of winning the likely pro football finale at the
Meadowlands might hinge on how well Sanchez manages the game. The fifth
overall pick has shown flashes of brilliance and endured stretches of
inconsistent play, totaling 2,381 yards with 12 touchdowns and 20
The Jets are 4-2 when
Sanchez does not throw an interception, and since he is backed by the
league’s best rushing offense at 166.6 yards per game, offensive
coordinator Brian Schottenheimer likely will devise a gameplan similar
to the one employed last Sunday. Running backs Thomas Jones and Shonn
Greene gashed the Colts for 200 yards on the ground.
New York’s defense, which leads the NFL in scoring defense at 15.7
points per game, has conceded just 47 in winning four of five.
Cincinnati (10-5) wrapped up its first division title since 2005 after
struggling past Kansas City 17-10 last Sunday, capping what was an
emotionally draining week following the Dec. 17 death of wide receiver
Chris Henry. Five days after flying to New Orleans to attend their
teammate’s funeral, the Bengals put away the Chiefs with a 98-yard
drive that was capped by Carson Palmer’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Chad
“I’m not jumping for joy or
glee, just thinking about 15 once that clock hits zero,” said
Ochocinco, referencing Henry’s jersey number. “That was everybody’s
mindset, to go out and win this one for him.”
The Bengals need a victory and have New England to lose to Houston to
claim the No. 3 seed, but a loss to the Jets would create a rematch
between the teams in Cincinnati next week. Despite that possibility,
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis doesn’t feel his team can go anything less
than full speed in order to enter the playoffs in the right frame of
“This team can’t turn it on and
off,” he told the Bengals’ official Web site. “It’s not old enough,
it’s not mature enough. We started the season as the second-youngest
team in the NFL. I don’t think we’ve gotten older over the season. Some
of our older players are no longer playing.”
That youth, though, isn’t responsible for the offense failing to score
points in bunches. Cincinnati has totaled 305 points – the fewest among
the seven teams to clinch division titles. The Bengals have failed to
score more than 24 in any of their last eight games, though Palmer has
thrown a touchdown pass to Ochocinco in four straight.
Ochocinco, who has team highs of 72 receptions, 1,047 yards and nine
touchdowns, was bypassed for the Pro Bowl along with running back
Cedric Benson – enjoying a career year with 1,251 yards in 13 games.
The Bengals became just the sixth playoff-bound team and first since
the 2002 Chicago Bears to not have a Pro Bowler.
Cincinnati has never beaten the Jets at Giants Stadium, going 0-7, and
its last road win against them came in 1981 at Shea Stadium. Jones had
two rushing touchdowns and one receiving in New York’s 26-14 victory
last year as the Bengals – playing without an injured Palmer – were
limited to 171 total yards.
Received 12/30/09 02:13 pm ET