By Tyson Rauch
The New York Jets (4-3) enter Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) as a surprising team that is exceeding the expectations of most of the experts. The Jets, led by a rookie quarterback, are not only in the hunt for a playoff spot, but also remain in contention for the AFC East division title as well. With the defense playing as good as advertised, the Jets success will now be contingent on the performance of the offense.
Ground and pound returns
The New York Jets have returned to their roots as the team’s rushing attack is ranked 11th in the National Football League. The platoon of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell has provided the team with a solid one, two punch that can move the chains and wear down a defense.
Passing game struggles
Gang Green’s passing attack is ranked 22nd in the NFL, averaging 219 yards a game. Some of the issues with the passing game can be attributed to the learning curve of a rookie quarterback and the implementation of a new offense. The remainder of the challenges could be due to the revolving door at the wide receiver position. The Jets wide receiver group has been decimated by injuries with almost every starter missing playing time.
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with the Bengals. This is the fourth game in a row Holmes will miss and it could not come at a more inopportune time. The Jets are set to face two of their toughest opponents of the season and could use the experience and craftiness of their veteran receiver. Holmes is a reliable route runner that commands the attention of the opposing defense. With Santonio in the mix, Gang Green could then take advantage of match-ups with Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, and Jeff Cumberland.
Spread the wealth
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has done an excellent job of utilizing the talent that he has on the field. Mornhinweg has overcome the loss of Holmes by getting Jeremy Kerley involved more in the slot position and incorporating Stephen Hill into the game plan. In addition, Marty has not been afraid to feature players that are very new to the system like Josh Cribbs and David Nelson.
For the Jets, the success on offense has truly become a team effort. So while the loss of Holmes has been a big blow to the team, there is no reason why the unit cannot continue to improve and be productive.
WR Santonio Holmes (hamstring)
C Nick Mangold (ribs) — expected to play, WR Greg Salas (knee)
S Antonio Allen (groin), LB Nick Bellore (thumb), LB Quinton Coples (ankle), WR Joshua Cribbs (knee), TE Jeff Cumberland (hamstring), CB Darrin Walls (shoulder), WR Jeremy Kerley (hamstring), WR David Nelson (hamstring), DT Kenrick Ellis (back), CB Antonio Cromartie (hip)
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Tyson Rauch is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.