There will be much emotion and import crammed into the afternoon for all the fans who attend Sunday's Jets-Bengals season opener at MetLife Stadium.
Up top will be an observance of the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Center terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Head coach Todd Bowles discussed the solemnity of the occasion this week, then said, "If we can give somebody some relief for a couple of hours while playing a football game, that would mean a lot."
It would mean a lot also to the Jets, who will want to set a tone for their tough first six games of the season with a win over HC Marvin Lewis' perennially powerful Bengals. As CB Darrelle Revis has said, "Our expectations are very high this year. We're excited, man, we really are. We've got all the pieces, we do. We feel we are a playoff team."
Here are seven points on the Jets-Bengals game to spark the Green & White into the 2016 season:
1. Historical EdgeIt goes to the Jets in terms of their 17-8 all-time record over the Stripes, including two playoff wins at Cincinnati, in '82 and '09. And it would seem to favor the Jets at MetLife, since they've beaten the Bengals nine straight at home — the franchise's longest all-time home winning streak against any NFL opponent. Of course, as your accountant always tells you, past performance is no guarantee of future success ...
2. Cincy's Response... and the Bengals' response would be how about the last time we played you guys? That was the 49-9 romp at Cincinnati in 2013, when Andy Dalton threw five TD passes — four to WR Marvin Jones (who's now with Detroit) — and a pair of 53-yard completions to WR A.J. Green. Dalton and Green, of course, are still in orange and black and will test Revis, fellow CBs Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams, and the rest of the Jets secondary.
3. Start Me Up"Fast start" is a Bowles mantra, and Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't had a problem with that on opening day. He's pitched in four season openers, all since 2011, and he was hot in all, completing 62% of his passes, 10 for touchdowns and four for interceptions, to the tune of a 101.9 rating. Further, his offenses scored 14 TDs on 47 drives, a sharp 29.8% TD rate. The Fitz record on opening day is 3-1, with a win last year as the Jets thumped the Browns and his only loss coming with the Bills in the Jets' 48-28 home win in '12. Now if Fitz can stay out of the clutches of DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap, another fast start is doable.
4. Still a Hit, ManDavid Harris, a.k.a. "The Hitman," enters his 10th NFL season having posted team-leading 100-plus tackle totals in eight of his first nine. He's got a sore shoulder but it would be stunning if he doesn't take the field to extend his 116-game starting streak, the longest streak among active front-seven NFL players. Harris' experience is needed to temper a group that will field new starters Lorenzo Mauldin and either rookie Jordan Jenkins or Mike Catapano on the outside and older hand Erin Henderson at Demario Davis' former spot inside.
5. A New Offensive ForteWe all know about Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. But a big key in their hoped-for encore is how quickly new bellcow back Matt Forte can assert himself. "The Work Horse" isn't a big bopper in the Chris Ivory mold but he remains one of the NFL's most multidimensional backs — his 12,718 scrimmage yards trail only LaDainian Tomlinson for most YFS in an eight-year span in the NFL since 2003. "The things I saw from afar, I'm now seeing them here and I can't wait to get into the live action," said Fitzpatrick. 'He fits right into that huddle."
6. Not the TEs We ExpecTEdAt one time a duel between Jace Amaro, the Jets' 49th pick of the 2014 draft, and Tyler Eifert, the Bengals' 21st pick in '13, might've had tight end devotees a-twitter. But that time is not this time. Amaro was acquired on waivers by the Titans this week and Eifert is out, still rehabbing the ankle he injured in the Pro Bowl. The revised depth charts: Kellen Davis, Brandon Bostick and Braedon Bowman for the Jets (12 NFL seasons combined, 141 games, 62 catches) vs. Ryan Hewitt, Tyler Kroft and C.J. Usomah (3 seasons, 47 games, 29 catches).
Top Snapshots from the Jets-Bengals Series
7. How Special?Brant Boyer's now coordinating the Jets special teams and the units gave definite signs of summer improvement. Spotlights may shine on two first-year men. Lachlan Edwards had a number of strong punts this preseason but still needs consistency in his directional kicks. And Jalin Marshall, the free agent from Ohio State, is the only name listed on the team's first depth chart at returner and has a chance to be the first rookie to lead the Green & White in both punt- and kickoff-return averages since ... could it be Leon "The Natural" Johnson in 1997?