The Jacksonvile Jaguars offense has been everything pundits thought the Cincinnati Bengals would be this season: pitiful. Facing the NFL's top defense this week won't be an easy task, but the Bengals would be wise not to overlook the Jags as they have proven themselves to be a handful at home.
Like Cincinnati, Jacksonville starts a rookie quarterback. Blaine Gabbert took over the offense in week three and has predictably struggled thus far. He leads an offense ranked 31st in the NFL that's scoring just 9.8 points per game. That sounds like a recipe for a route by the Bengal defense which has been suffocating thus far, but the Jags do have some weapons.
Their chief threat on offense is running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The diminutive Jones-Drew is coming off of off-season knee surgery and looks better than ever. He's averaging a career best 5.1 yards per carry and just shy of 100 yards per contest. He's only found the end zone once so far though. The Bengals defense must contain Jones-Drew and put the game in Gabbert's hands.
Gabbert is big and strong-armed, but his targets aren't among the NFL's elite. The Jags think they have a go-to receiver in Mike Thomas, who they re-signed earlier in the week. Other than Thomas, the wideouts don't put fear in the hearts of defensive backs.
The Bengals do have to be concerned with tight end Marcedes Lewis. Although he's struggled thus far, catching only 11 balls for 107 yards and one TD, he's a major red zone threat for the Jags. Given the Bengals history allowing tight ends to have big games, Lewis should be a top target for Mike Zimmer's defense.
The Jaguars defense is still strong, as you would expect under Jack Del Rio. They rank 12th in the NFL surrendering 335 yards per game. Last week, they picked off Drew Brees twice and held firm in the red zone, forcing five New Orleans field goal attempts.
Aaron Kampman returns this week at defensive end which should help their pass rush. The Jags also upgraded at linebacker in the off season, adding former Bill Paul Posluszny and former Colt Clint Session.
The Bengals might be feeling a bit giddy at 2-2 and having knocked off the Bills last week. At this point, however, no opponent is one that Cincinnati can afford to overlook, especially one on the road.
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