CINCINNATI (AP) -How low will they go?
Instead of contending for another playoff spot, the New York Jets (1-5) are one loss shy of matching their total for last season. They're in a three-game losing streak with an embattled quarterback whose future might be on the line Sunday in Cincinnati.
Like the Jets, the Bengals (1-4) are still stuck on one win at mid-October, with their quarterback and receivers catching a lot of heat from each other. They've dropped four in a row and almost certainly would have their playoff hopes snuffed by another loss.
Good company for each other's misery.
``We're two hungry teams looking for a win,'' Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. ``If it were a boxing match, you would see a lot of punches.''
If it were a boxing match, it would probably be stopped.
Paul Brown Stadium will be sold out, but that has nothing to do with the Jets making their first visit in 10 years. Bengals tickets were a hot item in the offseason, with fans expecting a return to the playoffs after a third 8-8 finish under coach Marvin Lewis.
Instead, it's feeling like the bad old days.
``I love the game and I like to win,'' receiver Chad Johnson said. ``I don't want that feeling to creep back in here how it used to be for 13 or 12 years or however long it was. I'm sure you all understood who went through it.''
The Jets know what they mean.
New York went 10-6 last season under first-year coach Eric Mangini, dubbed ``Mangenius'' for taking a previously 4-12 team to the playoffs. The turnaround was led by Chad Pennington, who threw for 3,352 yards and was Comeback Player of the Year coming off his second major shoulder operation.
Only six games into this season, many Jets fans are clamoring for Kellen Clemens to replace Pennington, who has thrown six interceptions in his last three games. Mangini is sticking with him for now.
Asked if he would pull Pennington from the game Sunday if he struggles, Mangini declined to answer directly.
``Really, I go through and look at the situation we're in, and we're working on getting ready for the game, so that's really our focus, preparing for the game right now,'' Mangini said.
Unlike last season, when Pennington's performance was seen in the framework of his comeback, this one is being judged on the team's record. And it isn't good.
``I understand that,'' said Pennington, who has completed 68 percent of his passes for 939 yards and six touchdowns with six interceptions. ``I just really focus on myself right now and see what I can do to help us win, to get better, to create a spark and create some energy because that's what we need.''
Their plodding offense will have a chance against one of the league's worst defenses, one that's as inept against the pass as it is against the run.
The Bengals will by buoyed by the return of cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who was suspended for a 27-20 loss at Kansas City for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Linebacker Rashad Jeanty returned to practice during the week after missing the first five games with an injured shin, providing some help at Cincinnati's most depleted position.
``The injuries have taken their toll,'' linebacker Landon Johnson said. ``Getting somebody back and not losing another guy is big for us.''
Although Jets fans will be watching Pennington, New York's chances will revolve more around Thomas Jones, who ran for 130 yards against Philadelphia last week. The Bengals have allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of the last four games, a common thread during their worst losing streak in Lewis' five seasons as coach.
For Cincinnati, it also will come down to making third downs. The Bengals have gone only 1-of-18 on third down in their last two games, forcing the low-ranked defense to spend more time on the field.
Given the teams' predicament, attitude will matter, too.
Both were visibly deflated after losses last week left them long shots for the playoffs. The Bengals' schedule provides a small chance to regroup and get back in contention, so long as they beat the Jets and start a winning streak now.
``We're 1-4 and we're nowhere near where we expected to be,'' Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said. ``But this team has got all the spirit we need to get a win. We're not down on ourselves. We're disappointed, but we're not depressed.''
The Jets are in a tougher spot, with one more loss and one less chance to make up ground. Whichever team loses will be in for a week of wondering how the season went so bad so fast.
``I think that's an example of what the NFL is all about,'' Pennington said. ``It's a league where predictions, a lot of the times, don't work out. Everyone goes into the season with a positive attitude and a healthy outlook.
``As the season plays itself out, teams go down different paths.''
So far, these two have taken the low road.

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