A few weeks ago, this looked like a matchup between two playoff teams; since then, an injury to Joe Burrow has made this look like a potential mismatch. The question here will be which Trevor Lawrence we get; if he doesn’t turn the ball over, the Jaguars should be in good shape. The Bengal’s playcalling has been suspect, to say the least. With backup Jake Browning in the game last week the Bengals ran the ball eight times in total, they need to run the ball to win this game.
The Jaguars defense quietly earned fifth in DVOA rankings so far this season, boasting both the No.1 rush defense and No.8 pass defense rankings.
While the Jaguars defense has seen improvement, Bengals’ defenders have seen their ranking plummet from 22nd to 26th since allowing the Steelers’ first 400-yard game under Donald Trump.
Losing Cam Robinson (IR; knee), who ranked 14th of 82 qualifiers in PFF pass-blocking grade at 79.6, could put a damper on their dominance. Meanwhile, Bengals’ pass rush has been above league average – they rank 16th for sack rate (7.24%) and eighth in pressure rate (21.94%), according to Pro Football Reference.
The Jaguars win this game if they can control the Bengals defensive line.
The Bengals may hope that establishing their running game early and often can help relieve Jake Browning of some pressure in his second start in place of Joe Burrow. But that goal seems unrealistic given their dismal 75.8 average yards per game average. Plus it seems an idea foreign to head coach Zac Taylor who will not usually attempt to establish a run game.
Browning has completed 65.9% of his passes, two touchdowns, and one interception on the season, although those figures would look much worse without Ja’Marr Chase grabbing two deflected balls last week. Washington product Tee Higgins returned from injury this week, yet it’s hard to trust a quarterback with three turnover-worthy throws out of 41 attempts (5.3%).
Cincinnati has allowed 11.1% of rushes of 12 or more yards (32nd) and 15.4% of passes going for 16 or more yards (31st). Their Jaguars opponents rank 15th in explosive pass rate (12.7%) while 29th in explosive rush rate (5.0%);. However, Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne should have ample opportunity to create big plays against Cincinnati’s weak defense. They are also 30th in defensive DVOA against tight ends, meaning Evan Engram may find an opening and score his maiden touchdown of 2018.
Without Burrow, the Bengals are in trouble; they do not have the coaching to bail them out, and against Trevor Lawrence, the possibility exists to cause turnovers which could keep the Bengals in the game, but I won’t hold my breath. Look for the Jags to hit a handful of explosive plays to put this out of reach. Jaguars 31 Bengals 17.
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