You know those final minutes of preparation before people arrive at your home for a holiday party? I find myself always in an accelerated mode in those final moments before the first guest arrives, adjusting a number of things that I could have truthfully had done hours earlier.
An NFL season works much the same way. We have arrived at the point of the season where final preparations are being made to complete regular season action. Some teams are already clicking their suitcases on their way to off-season plans, while other squads are positioning themselves to best advance their chances when, and if, they advance to the playoffs.
The bye weeks are all completed, every team entered this week’s play with the same number of games played, 11, and all had five contests left on their regular season schedule. The trick to winning in December is to know what business the teams are likely to take care of over the final five weeks.
Those teams that carried high hopes into the 2019 season that have been leveled by reality, are the most likely candidates to play out the season without much of a fight. Teams that have surprised both their fans and themselves with results that exceeded their expectations have two ways to go, either their over-achievement is met by disappointment down the stretch more in line with their actual talent level, or they pull off a 1969 New York Mets type miracle.
Don’t bet on miracles.
We have two teams that are not in shouting distance of the playoffs meeting on Sunday in Cincinnati when the New York Jets fly in for a contest against the winless Bengals.
While I may scurry about doing a number of last minute preparations right before a party begins, you can bet I have planned the menu and have the drinks already on ice. The basic stuff is done, the final steps are just enhancements.
But, like not planning the meal for your guests until they are about to arrive, the Bengals have not won a game through the first three months of the season. Now, as we head into the final weeks of the campaign, Cincinnati is pressed to not join the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns as teams that played a 16 game schedule and failed to notch a single victory.
A lot more teams than the two that failed to win a game got a December victory to erase the stigma of a winless season. The Bengals are a likely choice to avoid the 0-16 embarrassment with a win in December, and according to our numbers, that win is going to happen on Sunday when the Jets visit Paul Brown Stadium.
The Jets fly in with the lift of a three game winning streak, erasing much of the sting endured during a run to open the season with only one win over the first half of the 2019 campaign. Even the Jets point spread record was nearly as bad as their straight-up mark through their first eight games, 2-6 versus the line as opposed to 1-7 straight-up.
Then, a win over their New York rivals, the Giants, sparked the Jets to a pair more of conquests the past two Sundays over the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders.
Consider the past few weeks games that elevated the Jets from doormat to respectability under first-year head coach Adam Gase and second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, a release of pressure. The Jets quarterback missed most of New York’s losing streak while sidelined with mononucleosis. His return and improved play over recent weeks has rekindled hope in the Big Apple for their team that wears green.
But, while the Jets are on the way up in recent weeks, this Sunday they are in for a bumping landing against what they think is an unlikely foe to down their hopes, the winless Bengals.
In fact, no team in the league is more poised to end the Jets winning streak than a team that is returning their veteran quarterback, Andy Dalton, to his starting role and based on past results forcing the Jets into the role of a road point spread favorite.
It is the last month of the NFL regular season, and the Bengals are accelerating their work to get done what every other team except two has accomplished during a 16 game season, find a spot they can win.
The Bengals spot is this Sunday.
Qoxhi Picks: Cincinnati Bengals (+3) over New York Jets