BY NICK ST. DENIS
The New York Jets (4-3) look to break their relentless win-loss pattern when they travel to Cincinnati for an intraconference battle with the AFC North-leading Bengals (5-2).
The Jets have yet to string together consecutive wins, and doing so against one of the NFL's fiercest defensive fronts and arguably the league's most explosive receiver will be no easy task. New York is coming off a big-time victory over the New England Patriots but faces a tougher test, matchup-wise, Sunday.
The Bengals have won three straight, most recently in Detroit against the Lions.
When the Jets have the ball:
The Jets have been talking all week about how good the Bengals' Geno Atkins-led defensive line is, so if New York's offensive front gets blown up Sunday, it won't be because of a lack of preparation. Going up against rookie guard Brian Winters, the defensive tackle Atkins will have ample opportunity to disrupt Jets quarterback Geno Smith's rhythm. The Jets must push back with an aggressive run game, and Smith will need to exploit his own running abilities to neutralize the rush. The Bengals are without their top cornerback Leon Hall, and as always, Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will take his shots through the air.
When the Bengals have the ball:
Rex Ryan said this week that he considers A.J. Green to be the best receiver in the NFL. No player has more receptions of 40 yards or more than Green thus far in 2013, but it's not just Green's big-play ability that has Ryan's attention. Green is a big target with a large radius who runs routes as well as anyone in the league, and Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie will have his hands full shadowing the Bengals wideout all game. New York's exceptional defensive front will be leaned on heavily to force the ball out of quarterback Andy Dalton's hand quicker than he'd like.
Antonio Cromartie. There are intriguing matchups all across the board in this contest, but aside from Winters, the Jets' top cornerback faces the toughest task of anyone on the field. Green will undoubtedly beat Cromartie for a couple chunk plays, but whether or not the Jets can keep Green in check will be the difference in the game.
The Jets own the all-time series by a 17-7 margin and have won nine of the last 10. Gang Green beat the Bengals in the 2010 regular season, but the most notable meeting between the two of late was New York's 24-14 win in Cincy in the 2009 Wildcard round. That victory came a week after the Jets pounded the Bengals at home en route to a playoff berth.
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