For the New York Jets to win Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals and make the playoffs, it has to be a Thomas Jones-dominated game. The Jets have a solid offensive line, with a couple of Pro Bowlers in Alan Faneca and Nick Mangold, so that needs to be their foundation, particularly given the excellent play this season from Bengals corners Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph. They might be the best tandem in the league. They challenge everything and are excellent in coverage. With Jets QB Mark Sanchez struggling to find some consistency, let Jones dominate. They'll have to throw a little, but I'd limit Sanchez to about 20 attempts.
The Bengals have been predominantly a running team this year, and Cedric Benson has had a fine season. I have not always agreed with that philosophy, especially when you have weapons like Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco and Laveranues Coles. They can be explosive and make plays in the air. I've thought they have been too conservative this year. But in this game, the Bengals are facing a Jets team that blitzes about 58 percent of the time. Rex Ryan's schemes are very good, and he will break down your protection. The Bengals will need to rely on Benson against such an active, punishing defense.
This game will come down to how long Marvin Lewis wants to let Palmer stay in. Will the Bengals go for a win and risk losing Palmer to a big hit? Because he will get hit. The Jets hit everybody.