The Jags this week host the surprising 2-2 Bengals, who last week rallied to upset the formerly unbeaten Buffalo Bills. The Jags are 1-3 and need a win to get their 2011 season back on track. Here’s some keys and our prediction to the contest this weekend.
1. Beat Up Benson – Cedric Benson is the workhorse of the Bengals backfield, and last week he posted his 14th career game of over 100 rushing yards. Cincinnati is 12-2 when he eclipses that mark. In his only previous meeting with the Jaguars, Benson rushed for 104 yards with a touchdown on 24 carries, a dangerous number allowing him to get to that this week. The Jags run D is 16th in the league, allowing 107.0 yards per game. They need to improve on that number and it needs to start this week.
2. Get Back to Jones-Drew – The Bengals boast the top-ranked defense in the league right now, and the Jags are not exactly lighting it up on the offensive side of the ball. The Jaguars are dead last in the league in scoring (9.8 points per game), 31st in total offense (264.2 yards per game), last in passing yards (137.5 ypg) and sixth in rushing yardage (126.8 ypg). Their best player on offense is by far Maurice Jones-Drew, and he needs the ball Sunday – a lot.
3. Gabbert Gets Better – Rookie QB Blaine Gabbert has a 90-plus fourth-quarter passer rating in two of his three career games and threw for a career-best 196 yards last week, though he completed only 16-of-42 attempts. He simply must improve his accuracy and down-the-field acumen if the Jaguars are to force the Bengals’ defense away from the line of scrimmage and open up space for Jones-Drew. The Jags are dead last in passing yards right now, and while getting Jones-Drew the ball will help, Gabbert needs to help himself with some throws downfield.
Prediction – A huge comeback last week by the Bengals, and some big steps forward by Andy Dalton, the rookie QB who showed some great gusto in the comeback win. Now they head to Jacksonville, taking on a Jags team that actually hung with the Saints last week, but were unable to make enough big plays to pull off a win. The Jags need to use MJD more, and they need to keep the Bengals offense off the field. Cincy has the number one D in the NFL right now, and that will be enough to get them to 3-2. Cincinnati 20 Jacksonville 13