Jets Are Season-High 9-Point Favorites Over Bengals After `Squeakers' Run

After the New York Jets’ latest comeback win, coach Rex Ryan jokingly apologized for any heart trouble the last-minute victory may have caused fans.

The Jets have earned a reputation as “Cardiac Kids,” with their last five wins decided either in overtime or with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Their 8-2 record marks the franchise’s best start since 1986, the year starting quarterback Mark Sanchez was born.

Tomorrow’s game against Cincinnati may finally put an end to those heart-stopping endings, at least according to Las Vegas oddsmakers, who list the Jets as nine-point favorites at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It’s the first point spread of more than a touchdown this season for the Jets, whose style has presented a challenge for oddsmakers in setting betting lines on their games, said John Avello, director of race and sports operations at the Wynn Las Vegas.

“Nothing has been easy for the Jets this season,” Avello said in a telephone interview. “They’ve been in some squeakers the last couple of weeks.”

Against Houston on Nov. 21, the Jets were 6 1/2-point favorites, matching their biggest spread of the season. They blew a 23-7 fourth-quarter lead before pulling out a 30-27 win on a touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes with 10 seconds left.

The Jets, who are tied with the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons for the National Football League’s best record, had overtime wins the previous weeks at the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns.

Get In Trouble

Richard Gardner, manager of Antigua-based Internet sports book Bodog.com, said that while the Jets’ late-game heroics have been exciting, it’s essential for oddsmakers to look beyond those decisive closing minutes.

“When setting lines on any game we are aware of these comebacks but look more at the matchup itself,” Gardner wrote in an e-mail. “It could only get us into trouble if taking something like that into account.”

Bodog.com lists the Jets as nine-point favorites against the 2-8 Bengals for tomorrow’s game. It’s the last of the three NFL games on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, when Detroit hosts New England and the New Orleans Saints visit the Dallas Cowboys.

The Jets are 0-3 in Thanksgiving Day games since 1970, most recently losing 34-3 to the Cowboys in 2007.

After going 3-5 in games decided by seven points or less last season, the Jets are 4-1 in those situations this year.

‘Wins and Losses’

“When it’s all said and done, we know how it’s added up at the end of the year,” Ryan said during a news conference on Nov. 22. “It’s based on wins and losses and nobody cares about anything else.”

Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an NFL analyst for General Electric Co.’s NBC, said the Jets have had good play and good luck this season.

“Mark Sanchez is making plays,” Dungy said in comments distributed by the network. “He’s got them believing. They have big play guys. Santonio Holmes has given them a big lift. The last two weeks we’ve seen dropped interceptions by Cleveland and bad coverage (by Houston). But they’re good enough to take advantage of it.”

The last time the Jets had a better record at this point in the season was 24 years ago, when they improved to 10-1 five days after Sanchez was born.

Sanchez, in his second year in the NFL, said the most important aspect of the team’s run of close games is that they’ve been winning. The Jets have won six of their last seven games, while the Bengals have dropped seven in a row.

“We’re proud of the way we’re finishing games,” Sanchez said. “Now it’s a matter of cleaning up some of the mistakes midway and three-quarters through the game. Hopefully, we’ll win some of these things without the last-minute heroics.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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