Jets Could Get Another Gift Sunday -- and They'll Take It
"We're preparing as if Carson Palmer will be the quarterback and Chad Ochocinco will be a receiver and all that," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "But Cincinnati's earned that right, and they'll make those choices."
In many respects, it's more important for the Bengals to rest their players next week than it was for the Colts to rest theirs this past week. The Bengals have to play in the first week of the playoffs, while the Colts will get a bye. The Bengals have been wracked with injuries and have a roster full of players who could afford some rest. And due to a bizarre quirk in the schedule that still could result in all four first-week playoff matchups being rematches of Week 17 games, the Bengals could find themselves playing the Jets a week later, and may not want to show them everything they've got.
"Why take the risk?" Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. "That's what the Colts decided. That's the philosophy of their organization. And the Bengals might feel the same. We've gotten a ton of hits on Carson over the years (when Scott played for the Bengals' division-rival Ravens). I've never actually sacked him, but I've probably hit him about 20 times."
Palmer and the Bengals have been struggling in the passing game, averaging just 171 passing yards over their last eight games. So it's conceivable that they might want to use this game to work some things out and get their air attack straightened out before the playoffs start. But that's not likely, since the Jets rank first in the league in team defense and shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis isn't the kind of player against whom you want to try and get your passing game healthy.
No, it seems far more likely that the Jets will see a diminished Bengals team on Sunday as Cincinnati gears up for a game that actually matters to them the following week.
"They're going to make the decisions, just as the Colts did, on whatever's going to put them in the best position in the playoffs," Jets safety Jim Leonhard said. "That's their right. We have a lot of our own things to take care of whether Carson's in there or not."
The Jets were clear Monday that they didn't feel like apologizing to anybody for taking advantage of Sunday's situation. They pointed out that they were only five points behind when Manning came out of the game. And while Ryan acknowledged that Manning was playing great, he more than once mentioned that his team won the game by 14 points -- his attempt to convince anybody who's listening that it was a more legitimate victory than many perceived it to be.
"It bothers me a little bit," Ryan said. "You have to earn everything you get in this league, whether you're playing against a starter or a backup. For half the year (since Kris Jenkins got injured), people have been playing against our backup nose tackle. I don't think anybody's made note of that. Our job is to try to get it done regardless of who's on the field. We talked about that during the week. If Tom Matte was at running back, it never mattered to us. We had to find a way to win, and that's what we did."
Because they did, they're now exactly where they were hoping to be. If they win Sunday, they're a playoff team. And there's a real good chance the Cincinnati Bengals could give them as much help as the Colts did.