NFL: Bengals face Jets hoping to avoid 0-3 start
The defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals will look to avoid an 0-3 start when they visit the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday afternoon.
The Bengals (0-2), who were expected to contend for a second straight AFC title, are already in a tough spot. They followed a season-opening 23-20 loss in overtime to the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 20-17 setback at Dallas on Sunday.
“We know that we’ve got great players,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “We know that the character is where it needs to be, a lot of the leadership. Guys understand what our issues have been and how solvable they are, and that we just need to go forward and put together a better, complete game.”
Since the NFL expanded the playoff field from two wild-card entrants to three in each conference in 2020, there have been 18 teams that have started 0-2 — and not one has made the postseason.
“We’re not panicking, two games in, we’ve got 15 games left,” Burrow said. “It’s all just take a deep breath and relax. We’re going to be fine. We’re not worried about it.”
The Jets (1-1) had started 0-2 in each of the past three seasons.
After the Jets opened the season with a 24-9 loss to the visiting Baltimore Ravens, New York scored two touchdowns in the final 1:22, which included recovering an onside kick, to pull out a 31-30 win at Cleveland.
Joe Flacco threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns, including the 15-yard game-winner to rookie Garrett Wilson with 22 seconds remaining against the Browns. Flacco, who was forced into the lineup to open the season since Zach Wilson is recovering from knee surgery, has thrown for 616 yards in two games, third-most in the league.
He’s also thrown five touchdowns and just one interception.
Now, the Jets have a chance to go above .500 for the first time since opening the 2018 season 1-0. They’ve been .500 or below ever since.
“You’ve got to learn how to win,” Jets tight end Tyler Conklin said. “That’s something all teams have to do. (Sunday) was a step in the right direction to prove that to ourselves that we’re never out of a game and that no matter what the situation is, we can win it.”
Meanwhile, the Bengals are tied with the Colts with a league-worst minus-four turnover differential. Joe Burrow has completed 64 percent of his passes for 537 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions. Burrow, who has been sacked a league-high 13 times, threw 14 interceptions all of last season.
The Jets won the teams’ meeting last year, 34-31, by scoring two touchdowns in a span of 61 seconds in the final 4:36 to rally from a 31-20 deficit.
Burrow threw for 259 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, Joe Mixon had a touchdown rushing and receiving and Tee Higgins had four catches for 97 yards last time the teams met.
For the Jets, Flacco was a backup to then-Jets starter Mike White. The Jets’ leading receiver this year, Corey Davis (8 catches, 160 yards, TD), missed the game because of an injured hip.
Flacco is 9-11 all-time as a starter against the Bengals, but he hasn’t faced them since he was a Baltimore Raven in 2018. He’s thrown 25 interceptions against Cincinnati, which is by far his most against one team, but he’s also thrown 21 touchdown passes.
Bengals tight end Drew Sample (knee), offensive tackle La’el Collins (back) and linebacker Germaine Pratt (knee) all didn’t practice on Wednesday, while Hayden Hurst (groin) was limited. Their availability for Sunday will be made closer to kickoff.
Jets tight end C.J. Uzomah (hamstring), defensive end Quinnen Williams (foot), Wilson (knee) and safety Jordan Whitehead (calf) were limited during Wednesday’s practice, while offensive tackle George Fant (knee) and defensive end John Franklin-Myers (quadriceps) didn’t practice.
None of the players, however, have been ruled out for Sunday’s game.
–Field Level Media