Is This Joe Flacco’s Final Start For NY Jets? Or Can He Win Job?

Let’s go ahead and be optimistic, Jets fans, and assume that Gang Green will further the slide of the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals by overcoming a six-point spread and pulling off yet another victory against an Ohio team to improve to 2-1 overall.

Jet’s QB Joe Flacco, seen on the field in an undated photo.

And let’s assume that quarterback Joe Flacco, the 37-year-old dinosaur undergoing a rejuvenation that has him at +15000 on BetMGM’s MVP board, is the main force behind this unlikely event. Will that be the end of the road for the quarterback who currently sits third in most passing yards by any NFL quarterback, even leading MVP favorite Josh Allen of Buffalo?

These are the questions worth pondering as the work week ends in New York, with the Jets set to go one of two ways: a 1-2 team with plenty of time to recover as injured quarterback Zach Wilson gets ready to take over for the final 14 games.

Or a 2-1 team that has had Flacco keeping up this Fountain of Youth thing and has the Jets one game over .500 heading into a Week 4 showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That team is reeling following their 29-17 loss Thursday night to Cleveland, where they managed only three second-half points.

Ah, a quarterback controversy. Wouldn’t that be something for a franchise that could not even win a single September game for the past three seasons?

What Will Robert Saleh Do If He Wins?

This is both a good problem and a bad problem to have for coach Robert Saleh. He knows the Jets’ long-term fortunes are tied to the success of Wilson, the overall No. 2 pick of the 2021 draft out of BYU, who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

If Wilson returns in Week 4 and Flacco sits, we are not going to be seeing dance moves quite like these:


— New York Jets (@nyjets) September 18, 2022

And that will do two things: Put a lot of pressure on Wilson for Week 4, and leave Saleh open to some severe second-guessing if the season then starts to take a subsequent turn for the worse.

Being somewhat in contention at this early stage of the season is something new for these Jets, who Saleh promised would not be the “Same Old Jets,” and then backed that statement up with that most unlikely of comebacks last Sunday against the Browns. The Jets scored two touchdowns over the final 1:55 in Cleveland for what may have been the most stunning victory last week in the entire NFL.

And while Giants fans are ecstatic over their 2-0 start heading into a Monday Night Football showdown against the Dallas Cowboys on the road, Jets fans are somewhere north of Cloud Nine. That’s because relevance was previously a word they could only look up in the dictionary.

But the fact remains that the Jets are six-point ‘dogs for a reason, not the least of which is that Cincinnati went to the Super Bowl last season and remains +1600 to win the AFC. That’s while the Jets are +10000. 

Say it louder, Ian!

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— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) September 22, 2022

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow enters this game with more interceptions (4) than TD passes (3), and the Bengals’ offense is ranked 18th with 343 yards per game. The Jets are ranked eighth with 391; on defense, Gang Green is surrendering 339 1/2 yards per game, while the Bengals are significantly stingier, allowing 302 per game, seventh-best in the NFL.

But that is all the more reason to keep a close eye on this while the Flacco-Wilson thing plays out. Because if Flacco can lead the Jets to a victory against that tough of defense (against a team that went to the Super Bowl, no less), we will have a situation on our hands. Remember, it was not long ago that Sam Darnold would be the long-term answer, and we all remember how that worked out.

Where is the Key Matchup, Team-Wise?

The matchup to watch is the Jets’ secondary vs. the Bengals’ receiving corps. The Jets have gone up against Baltimore and Cleveland teams that are both running back reliant. But Cincinnati is different. Last season, Ja’Marr Chase was sixth in the NFL in total receiving yards, Tee Higgins was 17th, and Tyler Boyd was 39th. The Jets had nobody in the top 80.

Chase has an over/under on receiving yards of 76.5. Higgins is at 65.5, Boyd is at 35.5; The Jets’ highest receiving total over/under is Elijan Moore at 49.5, (he had three catches for 41 yards last week), and Garrett Wilson, who caught the game-winner last week, is at 50 1/2).

Burrow’s passing yardage over/under is 262.5 yards, a number he easily eclipsed in the season-opening overtime loss to Pittsburgh but fell short (199 yards) last week against Dallas. Flacco is at 234.5, which he surpassed in each of his first two games, going for 307 and 309.

And then we have sacks. The Bengals have only two this season after finishing 12th in that category last year before dropping Matthew Stafford twice during the Super Bowl. You may recall that the Rams sacked Burrow seven times in the championship game, which is something Saleh’s defense will try to replicate. New York has only 3 sacks this season, which does not bode well for the Jets pressuring Burrow into the types of quick throws that can be picked off.

On interceptions, the Jets have two, and the Bengals’ next one will be their first.

Last time we saw Flacco, @Sam_Hubbard_‘s iconic flex was born

— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) September 21, 2022

Blown coverages downfield have hurt the Jets in each of their first two games, and the best bet anywhere in America is that the Bengals coaching staff has been focusing on those coverage mistakes to enable repeats. The Jets’ stirring comeback last Sunday was a rare feel-good moment for a franchise that has not had many of those since Joe Namath was a quarterback in 1969.

Saleh will need to have them at their sharpest level of focus to keep them from having to play from behind, as they did in the majority of their first two games against the Ravens (they trailed for 37:40) and the Browns (they trailed for 23:22). The first lead the Jets had all season came when they scored with 22 seconds remaining last week against the Browns.

So this is a true test for Flacco and the Jets because a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance with an 0-2 record is a desperate team, and Bengals coach Zac Taylor could find himself on the hot seat, despite all of the success he has had since opening 0-11 in his rookie coaching campaign of 2019. What happened last season can quickly be dismissed if things go south quickly. Just ask Ime Udoka.

What About The Lines and the Trends?

The line is 6 because of what these teams did a year ago. The over/under is 45 1/2 because neither offense has been particularly adept.

But it is only Week 3, and there is time for these teams to revert to form: The Bengals being a strong postseason contender; the Jets being a team that leaves their fans shaking their heads as they exit the Met Life parking lot. But by any measurement, this is a momentous game for both teams.

New York is 1-1-0 against the spread, and Cincinnati is 0-2. The Jets are 3-6-0 ATS as a home ‘dog, including last season. The Bengals are 2-2 ATS as a road favorite. New York has gone over in five of nine games as a home underdog, while the Bengals have gone over just once in their past four games as an away favorite.

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