The Cincinatti Bengals have one goal this season: beat the NFL odds (visit for the best odds)  and get Marvin Lewis his first playoff win. There’s no arguing that Lewis has done an exceptional job of turning the Bengals franchise around, but the real measure of a coach’s success comes in the playoffs. He may have won the AP Coach of the Year award in 2009 – the first Bengals coach to do so since 1970 – but he hasn’t been able to win a single playoff game in seven appearances. Lewis will be looking to snap that streak in 2016 and the Bengals will begin this year’s road to the playoffs by facing the New York Jets, a team that’s trying to capitalize on a Brady-less division.

As everyone surely knows by now, Tom Brady will begin the season by serving a 4-game suspension. Brady will return under center in Week 5, but right now Jimmy Garoppolo is the man leading New England. The Jets are aware of this and will be looking to get an early jump atop the AFC East, even if the NFL odds favor a Brady-less Patriots squad. The only problem is that that road is blocked by a playoff contender: the Cincinnati Bengals.

Unlike the Patriots, the Bengals will begin the 2016 season with their starter from day 1. Andy Dalton will be returning after suffering a fractured thumb in Week 13. Before that, Dalton had played exceptionally well, racking up 3,250 yards with 25 touchdowns and setting the franchise single-season quarterback rating at 106.3. Dalton was a leader both on-and-off the field for Cincinnati in 2015 and his presence was sorely missed. The quarterback suffered the injury after attempting a tackle following an interception, which has prompted teammate Adam Jones to say the following:

“Whatever happens out there, he needs to run his butt back to the sidelines.”

Jones comments are a little humorous but they’re accurate nonetheless; Dalton’s valued for his offensive contributions, not his defensive prowess. The Bengals have their top-rated defense for that. Last season Cincinnati was great against the run only averaging 77.8 yards allowed per game on the ground. They did struggle against the pass however, ranking 26th in overall pass defense. Their opponents had no difficulty moving the ball through the air, but the Bengals defense held when it needed to; they ranked 12th in points allowed per game.

The Jets may not have the NFL odds on their back, but just this time, luck might be. The Bengals have already suffered a decent amount of injuries, including one to first-round draft pick William Jackson that landed him on IR. The Bengals may be one of the AFC North’s favorites, but they’ll be coming into this game with a splinter in their paw; seven Bengals players will either miss time, or are coming off a preseason injury. That’s good news for the Jets who will be trying to start the season off strong with a win at home.

Todd Bowles, the Jets head coach, will be entering his second year at the helm. It’s safe to say there’s a chip on Bowles’s shoulder after winning 10 games in his first year and still missing the playoffs. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the best quarterback in the league but he should still be formidable due to the exceptional talent he’s throwing too: Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The Jets also acquired Matt Forte in the offseason and the veteran running back should help carry the load offensively. The Jets defense performed eerily similar to the Bengals. They were second in the league against the run but 20th against the pass. Overall, they ranked 11th in points allowed per game. With top talents like Muhammad Wilkerson and Darrelle Revis returning for the Jets, there’s very little doubt that this squad won’t be as fearsome as last year.

The Bengals are listed as the slight favorites across the best betting websites, but just like its collegiate counterpart, NFL games can be difficult to predict.

Written by John Hawthorne