Saturday Game Edition

Written by: MJK

Jets QB Mark Sanchez vs. the Cincinnati Bengals Defense

New York used a convincing 37-0 victory over these Bengals less than a week ago to catapult them into one of the final two AFC wild card spots. The Bengals, having the #4 seed already locked up, rested running back Cedric Benson and looked horrible while playing most of their starters into the third quarter. Still, I don’t think too much stock can be put into a game where one team had everything to play for and the other team had nothing.

Sure, it’s a bit cliché to call out the rookie quarterback in his first career playoff game while playing on the road. But it’s the matchup that will decide this game, and not the Darrelle Revis Chad Ochocinco matchup on the other side. Both of these teams rely on a strong defense and power running attack, but Mark Sanchez is going to have to hope for a very simple and smart game plan from his coaching staff if he wants to be successful against a very underrated and physical Cincinnati defense.

New York's game plan will rely heavily on the run game as it always does, but there have been spots throughout the season where head coach Rex Ryan starts trusting Sanchez a little too much and has allowed him to start taking shots downfield. Not usually a recipe for success. Ryan will again have to hope the run game is able to pound the Bengals defense in an attempt to keep them honest and let Sanchez dink and dunk his way down the field. If the running game is not successful, it could be a very long day for Sanchez. If he is efficient enough to complete about 65% of his passes then the Jets will be in much better position to win this game. Asking that from a young quarterback who 20 INT’s during the regular season might be a bit too much to ask.

Cincinnati will come at Sanchez with a balanced attack that will be a certain blend of casual pressure with intent of stopping the run. They do not enforce as much of a blitz heavy scheme as New York does, but they will still come at Sanchez with a good amount of pressure. Cornerbacks Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph provide enough stability on the outside that the Bengals will be allowed to focus on stopping the run early and often. I would not be surprised if Braylon Edwards got loose on a long TD pass or two if Hall or Joseph don’t bring their A game.

The Verdict: Sanchez final line- 11-23-179 yards-1 touchdown-2 interceptions. Bengals D will return one Jets turnover to the house.

Outcome: Bengals- 20-13

Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles- Passing Attack

This game will be the second rematch of week 17 opponents and should prove much more exciting. Both of these teams have a stable of running backs that play integral roles in keeping drives moving. They both also love pushing the ball down field while taking out huge chunks of yardage via the deep pass.

The emergence of Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin has been a saving grace for Tony Romo and the rest of the offense. Dallas gave up a lot to acquire receiver Roy Williams from Detroit last season and signed him to a huge contract in the hopes that he would be able to supplant the released Terrell Owens as the teams #1 receiver. While he has shown signs of life in spots this season, Williams has inconsistent hands and whats more, does not have the 100% trust of Romo in big spots. Austin has given the Cowboys a deep threat down the field that must be respected. More importantly, he has become a much more complete receiver as the season has gone on as his short and intermediate route running is much improved. If tight end Jason Witten can keep the linebackers honest by staying tight in routes while forcing the front seven to respect the pass over the middle, Austin should be able to get a few looks deep.

Phladelphia has utilized running back Brian Westbrook so well the past few seasons but with Westbrook slowing down with injuries for most of this season, he has become a shadow of the offensive staple he once was. This has led to a much heavier passing attack that has been anchored by the explosive play making abilities of second year receiver Desean Jackson. The Cowboys have been able to keep Jackson in check in two previous meetings this season, but he is a player that is not to be over looked in any situation. Brent Celek has become Donovan McNabbs favorite target underneath and has provided a safety blanket for McNabb that has seemed to fill a void that was left behind by the catching abilities of Westbrook. Jeremy Maclin has been a nice surprise in his rookie season and possess’ quick feet and explosive burst that give the Eagles a dangerous combination of speed on the outside. Still, Jackson has been the most consistent producer of offense for the Eagles this season and I think it will be tough to keep him from having a big game three times in a row.

The Verdict: Romo- 21-34 280 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; Austin- 4 catches- 90 yards- 1 touchdown; Witten- 9 catches- 100 yards- 1 touchdown; McNabb- 24-39 305 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception; Jackson- 5 catches-110 yards; Celek- 6 catches- 85 yards- 2 touchdowns

Outcome: Philly 27-21