Not many pundits thought the Cincinnati Bengals would win three games all year, yet they head into Jacksonville today to face the Jaguars looking for their third win in five times out. The Bengals need to win three battles within the game to come out victorious on the scoreboard today.
Win field position: The weather today in North Florida promises to be dicey with sustained winds and heavy rain at times. Cincinnati has excelled at maintaining positive field position thus far this season. If the weather is ominous, it will be even more important. Both teams start rookie quarterbacks, but the Jaguars' Blaine Gabbert is much more dependent on downfield passing that can be affected by wind than Andy Dalton in the Bengals' West Coast attack. Making Gabbert negotiate a long field in poor conditions plays into the strength of the Bengals' defense.
Win first down: The Bengals' defense needs to keep Gabbert and the Jags offense behind the chains, forcing him to make plays on third and long. That means keying on running back Maurice Jones-Drew on first down. Jones-Drew is the one offensive weapon the Jags have who can neutralize the Bengals defense. He's small, he's quick, and break a long run at any time, changing the complexion of the game. On offense, the Bengals need to keep Andy Dalton in favorable down and distance situations. That means the kind of variety on first down they showed last week against Buffalo. Running against the Jags front seven will be tougher than against Buffalo, but the Bengals do have some mismatches with Jermaine Gresham against the Jacksonville linebackers and a wealth of receiving talent who can all run after the catch. Look for Jay Gruden and the Bengals offense to try to attack the perimeter of the Jacksonville defense on first down.
Win the turnover battle: Again, the weather may be a factor here. Plain and simple, the Bengals are the better team, and as long as they hold onto the football, they should win this game. In last week's game against the Bills, turnovers allowed the Bills to get a lead and force a comeback. Facing a rookie quarterback themselves, the Bengals defense would like to chalk up a few turnovers as well.
It may get sloppy, but it looks like the Bengals will be 3-2 coming back from Florida. Bengals 17, Jaguars 9.
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