Smith will be Jets savior

A few years ago, Mark Sanchez was supposed to rule the Big Apple.

The New York Jets quarterback had guided his team to consecutive conference championships and was set to take the next step. Instead he regressed, culminating with a season-ending shoulder injury in the preseason. Enter Geno Smith, whose winning tendencies has made many forget that he was a draft pick only a few months ago.

With Smith, the 4-3 Jets have realistic playoff hopes. They downed their arch-rivals, the New England Patriots, last week and now face another stiff test Sunday with Andy Dalton and the 5-2 Cincinnati Bengals at 3:05 p.m. on CBS. The numbers say both teams are evenly matched by relying on top 10 defenses and capable running games.

New York has yet to play consistently well against the better teams and with Cincy at home, expect that trend to continue in a three-point Bengals victory.

Another interesting game on Sunday sees the 4-3 Lions hosting the 4-3 Dallas Cowboys at noon on FOX. With both defenses struggling, this figures to be a shoot-out. Detroit, under hurler Matthew Stafford, has even more weapons this year, while Dallas continues to be offensively capable under Tony Romo. The Lions have had the Cowboys’ number in years past and Detroit is primed for a 10-point victory.

Thursday’s 7:25 p.m. contest between the 3-3 Carolina Panthers and 0-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on NFL Network is mildly interesting. Tampa’s only saving grace is Darrelle Revis and the defense. But that unit looks wholly undermanned against Cam Newton and the peaking Panthers. Expect Carolina to win big, by about 17 points.

It’ll be intriguing to see the 6-1 Seattle Seahawks face the 3-4 St. Louis Rams on Monday at 7:40 p.m. on ESPN. With Rams QB Sam Bradford out for the year, St. Louis is desperate for an answer. Don’t expect any solution to pan out against Russell Wilson’s Seahawks, whose overall superiority should shine through in a 14-point victory.