Fresh off an impressive come-from-behind victory over then-undefeated Buffalo, the Bengals travel to Jacksonville, FL to take on the Jaguars. The Bengals are 2-2 on the season, and sport the top-ranked defense in the NFL and a quickly-improving offense, led by rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
Jacksonville is coming off of a 23-10 home loss to New Orleans last week. The Jaguars are 1-3 and a riding a 3-game losing streak after squeaking out a week one win over Tennessee.
The Jag defense is solid, (ranked 12th overall) if unspectacular. Their offense, however, is putrid (31st). Like the Bengals, they are starting a rookie QB in Blaine Gabbert, and want to rely heavily on their running game, where they have one of the league’s better backs in Maurice Jones-Drew. Surprisingly, MJD had only 11 carries last week, and head coach Jack Del Rio will certainly want to increase his touches this week. They have a very good tight end in Mercedes Lewis, whom will challenge the Bengal linebackers.
The Bengals will want to feed Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott carries, and then stretch the defense with passes to Green and WR Jerome Simpson. TE Jermaine Gresham should also benefit from a successful running attack.
On defense, the Bengals will want to shut down MJD and force Gabbert into 3rd-and-long situations in which the pass rush can tee-off, and add to their 12 sacks. This should also serve to help them get their first interception on the year. The Bengal defensive line is quickly becoming the team’s strength, and they should have success against a mediocre and dinged Jaguar offensive line.
Statistically, the Bengals are the better team, with better yards-per-game, points-per-game, points allowed and yards allowed numbers. Vegas has the Jaguars favored by 2.5, which should also serve to help the Orange and Black.
Between the two quarterbacks, Dalton has looked better so far, the Bengals have more playmakers on offense, and the better defense overall. All of this means the Bengals should have the advantage Sunday. However, this looks similar on paper to the 49er game, especially considering the 70% chance of rain in the forecast. If the Bengals sleep-walk early, they could find themselves playing from behind in bad weather against a good running team—just the recipe for beating them. The Bengals need to play smart, rely on their defense and running game, and limit their turnovers while keeping pressure on the Jag offense. Cincinnati averages 20 points per game on offense. Jacksonville only averages about 10, and they have yet to score a touchdown after halftime this year.
Prior to the season, I wrote that if the Bengals finished the first fourth of the season at 2-2, they’d have a legit chance at an 8-8 season or better. Here they are, at 2-2, and could have easily been 3-1 had a few breaks gone their way. They have a big opportunity here. If they beat Jacksonville and 0-4 Indianapolis, they’ll head into their bye at 4-2, with very winnable games against Cleveland, St. Louis, Arizona, Seattle, and Tennessee down the stretch.
I like this Bengals team. They are tough, young, and gritty, and should be more prepared than the Jaguars.
Bengals 23-Jacksonville 13