- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will make a trip to Cincinnati for their first and only primetime game of the 2021 regular season tonight. In the process, they will be looking for their first win after falling to 0-3 Sunday in a game where they had a lead against the Arizona Cardinals but weren’t able to finish strong.
As for the Bengals, they’ve been a surprise to most in the football community and will come into Thursday Night Football confident with a 2-1 record. A big reason for that is because they are much improved from the roster the Jags saw in 2020 when the Bengals were able to defeat them by a score of 33-25.
Still, despite the Bengals’ improvements, the underdogs can never be ruled out when it comes to Thursday Night Football, where things tend to get wacky. Of course, it will be on the Jags to play a clean game, too, and here are five keys that could lead to a victory on their part:
Remain consistent with James Robinson's usage from Week 3, or go to him more
Sep 12, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (25) runs with the ball as Houston Texans strong safety Eric Murray (23) attempts to make a tackle during the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The Jaguars finally got James Robinson a decent amount of carries Sunday. After having just 16 carries in the first week, he had 15 carries for 88 rushing yards and a touchdown, which led to the offense having better results.
To the surprise of many, there was even one drive (for 75 yards) where Robinson carried the ball six times in the third quarter. That, of course, was the drive where he ran in a touchdown and increased the lead to 19-10.
Still, when reflecting on the season so far, the case could be made that Robinson needs to get even closer to the 20-carry mark. That’s something Urban Meyer even alluded to after the last game, so it will be important to monitor if coordinator Darrell Bevell at least remains consistent with Robinson’s usage.
Also take advantage of the absence of Jessie Bates (and probable absence of Chidobe Awuzie)
Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) gives a thumbs up before a play in the fourth quarter during an NFL Week 1 football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Bengals won, 27-24.
Minnesota Vikings At Cincinnati Bengals Sept 12 [The Enquirer]
The Bengals will be without safety Jessie Bates this game, who is viewed as their best defensive player by many and is one of the league’s best safeties. The veteran is dealing with a neck injury and Brandon Wilson, who only has two career starts, could be the one stepping in for him.
Needless to say, Wilson isn’t the starter that Bates is and there should be a dropoff as he’s mostly been a special teamer. Of course, the Jags and Trevor Lawrence should take advantage of that and take their shots deep.
Starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is also doubtful, which could lead to a pairing of Trae Waynes and Eli Apple. That said, if there ever was a proper time to air it out, it’s against this pair as the former hasn’t played since 2019 and the latter has struggled throughout his career. In fact, Apple hasn’t registered a coverage grade better than a 49.7 this season per Pro Football Focus and he’s also known as a penalty machine, with three already this season.
Slow down RB Joe Mixon
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) carries the ball in the fourth quarter of a Week 4 NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Bengals won 33-25. [The Enquirer]
The Bengals have leaned on running back Joe Mixon to help out their young quarterback in Joe Burrow much like fans in Jacksonville were hoping the Jags would do with Robinson. In his first three games, Mixon has carried the ball 18, 20, and 29 times and will enter Thursday’s game with 286 yards and a touchdown.
This shouldn’t be shocking to the Jags when considering how they witnessed Mixon’s impact first-hand. In their meeting with Cincinnati in 2020, Mixon ran wild on the defense, garnering 25 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Simply put, that can’t happen Thursday and the Jags must slow Mixon down like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears did as the former held him to 18 carries for 90 yards and the former held him to 20 carries for 69 yards. He also wasn’t able to find the end-zone against either team.
We’ve been on record for saying the strength of the defense is their abilities against the rush and the group will be getting one of their biggest test of the year when it comes to Mixon. They will at least have one thing in their favor, though, as defensive coordinator Joe Cullen is familiar with the Bengals after playing them for many years with the Baltimore Ravens.
Limit the explosive plays from WR Ja'Marr Chase
Sep 12, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1) reacts after making a catch against the Minnesota Vikings in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
When the Jags’ defense takes the field, Mixon and Joe Burrow aren’t the threats to be mindful of. Rookie receiver Ja’ Marr Chase is off to a hot start on the perimeter and has been a huge threat for the Bengals when it comes to deep shots. In fact, he recently became the only player in the Super Bowl Era with a 30-yard receiving touchdown in each of his first three games.
Ja'Marr Chase is the ONLY player in the Super Bowl Era with a 30-yard receiving TD in each of his first 3 career games.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) September 26, 2021
This means the Jags can’t treat the ascending star like a rookie, and under the leadership of veterans Shaq Griffin and Rayshawn Jenkins, they must keep Chase in check as the rookie will enter Thursday’s game with 11 receptions for 220 yards and four touchdowns.
In the Jags’ last game, Griffin was tasked with following Deandre Hopkins and held him to three receptions for 21 yards. However, it’s worth noting that Hopkins didn’t practice all week and had a rib injury. Chase, on the other hand, is 100% and could be a bigger threat to Griffin and Co. for that reason. With that being the case, keeping Chase out the end zone would put the Jags in good position for a win and getting an impact play from Griffin and Jenkins in the process would be a bonus.
Take advantage of of field goal attempts
Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Matthew Wright (16) kicks a field goal during the third quarter of a preseason game at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn. [The Tennessean]
When looking at the Bengals’ schedule, two of their three games have been decided by a field goal. Their victory against Minnesota was won by three and their loss to the Bears was lost by three, which is an indication that their games are close.
That said, the Jags’ kicking game will probably need to be much better than what we’ve seen from Josh Lambo these first three weeks. The veteran has missed all of his field goal attempts on the season and two extra point attempts, which is why it may be a good thing that he was ruled out for Thursday’s game.
Kicking in his place will be recent practice squad addition Matthew Wright, who doesn’t have a ton of experience (just three games to be exact), but has been accurate when he’s played. The 25-year old will come into Thursday’s game 4-of-4 on his attempts and a career long of 46. If he can continue with that type of accuracy and seize the opportunity ahead of him, a successful night could end up getting the former UCF Knight a permanent job.