Joe Flacco
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets head into Week 3 with a better record than their opponent, the defending AFC champion Bengals.

Yes. Somehow that is true.

The Jets are 1-1 after a thrilling 13-point comeback win over the Browns last Sunday. The Bengals, on the other hand, have dropped two straight against the Steelers and Cowboys.

Veteran Jets quarterback Joe Flacco will get the nod for the third straight game while primary starter Zach Wilson rehabs from a knee injury. Wilson could return as early as Week 4, so Flacco’s time as the temporary starter is coming to an end.

Or is it?

The fans wanted Flacco benched in the midst of an abysmal Week 1 performance against the Ravens. Then on Sunday, with his starting role in jeopardy, the 37-year-old stunned onlookers, throwing for 307 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-30 victory.

It bodes the question: what happens if Flacco shines again and the Jets win their second straight against the Bengals, but then Wilson is ready to go for Week 4?

Do you keep running it back with Flacco until he gives you a reason not to? Or do you still look to Wilson, the former No. 2 overall pick you’re trying to build this roster around?

If Flacco on Sunday performs much like he did against the Ravens (309 yards, one touchdown, one interception, 74.8 passer rating), Wilson will be back as the starter if healthy — no questions asked. But if Flacco has another great game and the Jets improve to 2-1, head coach Robert Saleh may have an enormous decision on his hands

Jets vs Bengals

When: Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022.
Where: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.
Time: 1 p.m. ET.
Radio: ESPN Radio New York 98.7 FM.

Keys to victory

Pressure the quarterback. The Jets have made a huge investment in their pass rush. They signed defensive end Carl Lawson to a three-year deal and defensive end John Franklin-Myers to a four-year extension last year. They then drafted defensive ends Jermaine Johnson and Micheal Clemons in the 2022 first and fourth rounds, respectively.

Time to get your money’s worth. The horrendous Bengals offensive line has allowed quarterback Joe Burrow to be sacked a league-leading 13 times through two games.

Secondary on high alert. While the pass rush needs to do its job, this Jets secondary has a lofty task on its hands handling Burrow and a Ja’Marr Chase-led Bengals receiving corps. The defensive backfield cannot continue a so-so start to the season against this talented passing attack.

Involve the masses. While Flacco was great last week, he can’t do it all at 37 years old. His lack of mobility will still come back to haunt him on various occasions. Against a strong Bengals defense (7th in the NFL with 302.0 total yards allowed per game), offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur needs to get each of his reliable weapons involved. The Michael Carter-Breece Hall running back duo has great potential and rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson (eight receptions, 102 yards, two touchdowns vs. Cleveland) is already showing why he was a top-10 pick.


All eyes will be on Flacco. Who, for all we know, could be starting beyond Week 3 if he puts together another great performance and leads his team to a second straight victory.

If Flacco struggles against Cincinnati and the Jets lose, Wilson will be under center in Week 4 if healthy. But it’s tough to imagine the Jets, in what’s supposed to be a year for contention, being so eager to move off Flacco following two straight dominant performances and wins.

The veteran’s Week 3 showing should play a role in what the Jets do at the quarterback position moving forward.

Did you know?

Flacco hasn’t faced the Bengals since he was still the starter in Baltimore back in 2018, and he hasn’t beaten them since 2017.

Overall, the veteran quarterback is 9-11 against Cincinnati with a 60.1% completion rate and just a 72.6 passer rating. Hopefully, his past inconsistencies against a former AFC North rival don’t return Sunday afternoon.

The pick

Flacco played a great game against the Browns en route to the Jets’ first win of the year. I won’t dispute that. But it’s tough to believe Flacco, at his age, is capable of pulling off that great of a performance in two straight games. Especially against a Bengals defense that was just in the Super Bowl last February. And this Bengals team is due for a win. Cincinnati still sports a very talented roster that includes one of the league’s top quarterback-receiver tandems. The Bengals were just on a little Super Bowl hangover the first two weeks. Flacco vs. the defending AFC Champions? Sorry, but I need to go with the latter. Bengals 24, Jets 13.

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.