Bengals at Jets: 5 things to know about today’s game

The Cincinnati Bengals find themselves in a hole after opening with two losses, but now they bring an even greater sense of urgency as they travel to play the New York Jets on Sunday.

Quarterback Joe Burrow said although the Bengals aren’t viewing the game as a “must-win” situation, they simply cannot fall to 0-3 and expect to be able to compete for the AFC North title or a playoff berth. These early games were ones that on paper were supposed to be more favorable matchups with three quarterbacks who have served in backup roles starting against them. It’s only expected to get more difficult.

Here are five things to know about Sunday’s matchup in the Meadowlands:

1. Respecting Joe Flacco

This week brings another backup quarterback in Joe Flacco, and the Bengals remember well what happened last year when they faced a backup quarterback in New York. Mike White led the Jets back from an 11-point deficit in the final five minutes with a pair of touchdown passes and a Joe Burrow interception in between as New York won 34-31.

Flacco has 25 interceptions over 20 games against the Bengals during his 15-year NFL career, as Cincinnati’s defense accounts for 17 percent of his picks. However, he’s been clean with just one interception in two games so far this year and he’s leading the third-ranked passing offense (303.0 yards per game).

“His timing is the same (as when he was younger), he knows where he wants to go,” Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said, recalling his time on staff with the Dolphins and facing Flacco. “He’s going to get it out of his hands and he makes good decisions. He never has been the most mobile game, obviously that’s not saying anything there, but he’s getting it out on time and really being effective.”

2. Stepping up on defense

In the matchup last year, White was effective using screens to get the ball to the running backs and moving down the field with short passes. Anarumo isn’t sure if that is a trend to expect again with Flacco, but the Jets have backs good enough to make it work.

Running backs Michael Carter and Breece Hall both have double-digit targets already, and tight end Tyler Conklin also would be a good option if the short passes are the way to go. Former Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah, who signed as a free agent with the Jets this offseason, didn’t play last week and had no targets in the opener. He was limited Wednesday and Thursday with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable despite being a full participant Friday.

The Bengals are looking for more big plays on defense, particularly with turnovers and trying to get the pass rush finishing off sacks. They have just one turnover and no picks this season after recording eight interceptions through four playoff games last year.

New York could be without leading receiver Corey Davis, who is questionable with a foot injury.

3. Injury concerns

The tight end room was a concern going into this week, and now linebacker Germaine Pratt is doubtful with a knee injury.

Cincinnati lost tight end Drew Sample for what coach Zac Taylor said is expected to be “several months” because of a knee injury suffered against Dallas. Then, Hayden Hurst showed up on the injury report with a groin issue that limited him in Wednesday and Friday practices after he had been a full participant Thursday. He’s listed as questionable, alongside right tackle La’el Collins.

Collins did not practice this week because of a back injury, though he was in attendance for part of Friday’s practice, but Taylor said he was optimistic he would be ready to go Sunday. If he can’t play, Hakeem Adeniji is likely to start at right tackle.

Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey will have to step up in Pratt’s place if he is out.

4. Faster starts on offense

Slow starts on offense have led to early deficits, including four first-half turnovers in the opener, but the Bengals believe those mistakes are easily fixable and they cannot afford to fall behind again this week. Second-half comebacks have allowed the Bengals to come back each of the last two games but

Burrow had no turnovers in Week 2 after having five (four interceptions and a fumble), but in the second game against Dallas, penalties and negative plays on early downs enabled the Cowboys to “pin their ears back and rush” too often, Burrow said.

Cincinnati played two especially good pass rushing teams, and the Jets aren’t known to be among the elite in that regard. Burrow noted Quinnen Williams as a talented defensive tackle, and former Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson is a capable pass rusher who gets more pressure than sacks. However, the Jets have just three sacks. The Bengals can’t keep allowing six and seven sacks every game.

Williams is listed as questionable with a foot injury, but he was a full participant Friday. Defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers (toe/quad) and safety Jordan Whitehead (calf) also are questionable.

5. Looking Saucey

Former University of Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner received a lot of attention in the Queen City before he became the Jets’ fourth overall pick in the 2022 draft, so the Bengals were well aware of him. Now they look forward to a chance to go up against an elite young cornerback.

Cincinnati hasn’t had any deep passes yet to show off the explosive offense that earned the Bengals a reputation last year. Bengals receiver Tee Higgins joked he’s not here to give lessons, but he might teach Gardner a few things Sunday.

“An elite talent,” Higgins said. “He’s tall, but fast, got good hips. He’s long so he can play the ball well in the air. He’s just one of those rare talents that you get, like I said earlier he went first round for a reason.”


Bengals at Jets, 1 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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