Jets have momentum, but Bengals have Palmer

First-round playoff games are hard enough to predict without complications like the rematch factor coming off a Week 17 meeting. Throw in the fact the New York Jets earned their playoff berth by defeating two teams — the Cincinnati Bengals, their opponent today in the NFL’s wild-card opener at Cincinnati, and the Indianapolis Colts — that already had clinched playoff berths and decided to rest key starters and logical forecasting become almost impossible.
 
After celebrating a victory to make a playoffs, the Jets go hunting Bengals again.
After celebrating a victory to make a playoffs, the Jets go hunting Bengals again.

Asked earlier this week if his team has an edge in their rematch with the Bengals, based on their 37-0 victory in the regular-season finale at Giants Stadium, Jets coach Rex Ryan shrugged and said, "I don’t know. Nobody’s been through this. … I guess you’d have to ask them or somebody a lot smarter than me. I can’t figure it out."

 
Ryan was not being totally serious. After all, this is the same guy who also said he thought the Jets should be favored to win it all. But just how unusual has this week been?
 
"We did all our preparation for the Bengals last week," Jets safety Jim Leonhard said. "So you feel like you are way ahead. But at the same time, you know this is a playoff game. So you have to go back and hit that film harder and try to find something new."
 
In a rematch in which much is uncertain, these three things are known:
 

Carson Palmer has solid numbers, but he wants a better outcome on Saturday.
Carson Palmer has solid numbers, but he wants a better outcome on Saturday.

1. The Jets have the momentum

While the AFC North champion Bengals (10-6) struggled down the stretch, losing three of their past four, the Jets won five of their past six to finish 9-7. However, the Week 16 victory at Indianapolis was tainted by coach Jim Caldwell’s decision to pull several key starters, including quarterback Peyton Manning, with his team leading in the third quarter.
 

2. The Bengals have the better quarterback

Veteran Carson Palmer has thrown 21 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions while directing a Bengals attack that relies on Cedric Benson, who sat out last week’s loss to the Jets but still rushed for 1,251 yards this season.
 
Jets rookie Mark Sanchez has been almost the exact opposite, throwing 20 interceptions and 12 touchdown passes. But after throwing 16 interceptions during the team’s 4-6 start, he has thrown only four in his past five starts while guiding an attack that relies on Thomas Jones, who rushed for a career-best 1,402 yards.
 

3. The Jets have the better defense

Inspired by Ryan and his schematic brilliance, the Jets surrendered a league-low 236 points (14.8 per game). But they could be hampered Saturday by an ankle sprain that could slow inside linebacker and leading tackler David Harris.
 
The Bengals aren’t far behind, having yielded 291 points (18.2 per game), and they return three starters — linemen Robert Geathers and Domata Peko and safety Chris Crocker — who sat out last week’s loss. That should make them much more competitive after allowing 257 yards rushing to the Jets last week.
 
This story appears in Jan. 9’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today.
 
Bill Eichenberger is a staff writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at beichenberger@sportingnews.com.
First-round playoff games are hard enough to predict without complications like the rematch factor coming off a Week 17 meeting. Throw in the fact the New York Jets earned their playoff berth by defeating two teams — the Cincinnati Bengals, their opponent today in the NFL’s wild-card opener at Cincinnati, and the Indianapolis Colts — that already had clinched playoff berths and decided to rest key starters and logical forecasting become almost impossible.
 
After celebrating a victory to make a playoffs, the Jets go hunting Bengals again.
After celebrating a victory to make a playoffs, the Jets go hunting Bengals again.

Asked earlier this week if his team has an edge in their rematch with the Bengals, based on their 37-0 victory in the regular-season finale at Giants Stadium, Jets coach Rex Ryan shrugged and said, "I don’t know. Nobody’s been through this. … I guess you’d have to ask them or somebody a lot smarter than me. I can’t figure it out."

 
Ryan was not being totally serious. After all, this is the same guy who also said he thought the Jets should be favored to win it all. But just how unusual has this week been?
 
"We did all our preparation for the Bengals last week," Jets safety Jim Leonhard said. "So you feel like you are way ahead. But at the same time, you know this is a playoff game. So you have to go back and hit that film harder and try to find something new."
 
In a rematch in which much is uncertain, these three things are known:
 

Carson Palmer has solid numbers, but he wants a better outcome on Saturday.
Carson Palmer has solid numbers, but he wants a better outcome on Saturday.

1. The Jets have the momentum

While the AFC North champion Bengals (10-6) struggled down the stretch, losing three of their past four, the Jets won five of their past six to finish 9-7. However, the Week 16 victory at Indianapolis was tainted by coach Jim Caldwell’s decision to pull several key starters, including quarterback Peyton Manning, with his team leading in the third quarter.
 

2. The Bengals have the better quarterback

Veteran Carson Palmer has thrown 21 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions while directing a Bengals attack that relies on Cedric Benson, who sat out last week’s loss to the Jets but still rushed for 1,251 yards this season.
 
Jets rookie Mark Sanchez has been almost the exact opposite, throwing 20 interceptions and 12 touchdown passes. But after throwing 16 interceptions during the team’s 4-6 start, he has thrown only four in his past five starts while guiding an attack that relies on Thomas Jones, who rushed for a career-best 1,402 yards.
 

3. The Jets have the better defense

Inspired by Ryan and his schematic brilliance, the Jets surrendered a league-low 236 points (14.8 per game). But they could be hampered Saturday by an ankle sprain that could slow inside linebacker and leading tackler David Harris.
 
The Bengals aren’t far behind, having yielded 291 points (18.2 per game), and they return three starters — linemen Robert Geathers and Domata Peko and safety Chris Crocker — who sat out last week’s loss. That should make them much more competitive after allowing 257 yards rushing to the Jets last week.
 
This story appears in Jan. 9’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today.
 
Bill Eichenberger is a staff writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at beichenberger@sportingnews.com.

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