Cincinnati Bengals (10-5, 7-8 ATS) vs. New York Jets (8-7, 8-7 ATS), Giants Stadium, New Jersey, Sunday, Jan. 3rd, 8:20 PM Eastern, NBC
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Jets -10/Bengals +10
The Cincinnati Bengals have already clinched the AFC North Division title, and are just waiting to find out who they host on Wild Card weekend. The New York Jets can make the playoffs with a win over Cincinnati Sunday night, and they’ll miss the postseason if they lose.k
And to top it off, if the Jets win the last regular-season game of the season Sunday night vs. Cincy, the two teams will hook up again next weekend at Paul Brown Stadium for one of those AFC Wild Card bouts.
The Bengals clinched the AFC North title last week with a 17-10 victory over Kansas City. But Indianapolis or San Diego have already locked up the top two seeds in the AFC, and the first-round byes that go with them. So regardless of what happens Sunday night, Cincy will enter the playoffs as either the three or four seed in the AFC.
Streaky New York, which has twice won three straight games this season and twice lost three in a row, took advantage of the absence of QB Peyton Manning and other Colts starters to rally in the second half last week and beat Indianapolis 29-15, keeping its playoff hopes alive.
Most online sportsbooks opened this game with the Jets favored by eight or nine points. But bettors must be thinking that Cincy might mail it in, because as of Wednesday night New York had been bet up to at least -10 almost everywhere.
And while the total started out at 36 at most NFL betting outlets, it quickly got bet down to 35.
The Jets are also listed at right around -525 on most moneylines, with the Bengals getting upwards of +425 to win outright.
On the season Cincinnati is outgaining opponents by a 325-300 YPG margin, and outrushing foes 132-88. Meanwhile, the Jets are outgaining opponents 321-264 and outrushing them 167-100.
Both these teams have done a very good job this year of keeping the ball away from their opponents. The Bengals rank second in the league in average time-of-possession at 32:51, while the Jets rank 11th at 31:05.
And in winning four of its last five games, New York has outgained and outrushed its last five opponents.
These two teams have played two common opponents this season. The Jets beat Houston 24-7 on opening weekend, and punked Oakland 38-0 in week seven. The Bengals, meanwhile, lost to the Texans 28-17 in week six and got upset by the Raiders 20-17 in week 11.
Cincinnati may be a division champion, but they haven’t scored more than 24 points since a 45-10 rout of Chicago in week seven. That’s part of the reason the totals are 6-9 in Bengals games this year. The other part may be that Cincy is holding opponents to just 17 PPG.
On the other side of the field, New York leads the league in scoring defense, allowing just 16 PPG, as they’ve gone 6-8-1 on the totals.
On the injury front Bengals LB Rey Maualuga became the third Cincinnati defensive starter to go down and out for the year when he broke his ankle last week.
These two teams have met each of the last two seasons. In week six last season the Brett Favre-led Jets beat the Ryan Fitzpatrick-QB’d Bengals 26-14, as the teams combined for just 423 yards of offense. And in October of 2007 Cincinnati outscored New York 38-31 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Through the first 16 weeks of NFL betting action this season, double-digit favorites are 51-7 straight up but only 29-28 against the pointspreads.
The Sagarin PURE POINTS ratings at USAToday.com rate the Jets at 26.5, the Bengals at 22.4. Factoring in Sagarin’s updated NFL home-field advantage figure of 2.3, and New York is a 6 1/2-point home favorite over Cincy on the Sagarin line.
Z-Man’s Pick: The Bengals will avoid injuries at all costs. Look for the Jets to blow them out and cover the spread.