Without a Steelers game this weekend, and with two other AFC North teams having played Thursday, we're going to preview the Bengals/Jaguars game. We'll provide our own insight, along with some from our friends at Cincy Jungle and Big Cat Country.
What kind of team will the Bengals be this season? It's a pithy question asked often this offseason, and one that only seems more muddled today. A top five run defense currently sits 31st in the league, allowing 155 yards per game. They're 2-1 this year despite getting shellacked by Baltimore in Week 1 and allowing 102 points in three games.
At what point did Cincinnati turn into an offensive powerhouse and a defensive sieve?
It could simply be performance. Cincy Jungle offered up their Bengals players power rankings after three weeks, and six of their top 10 players are on the offensive side of the ball, along with three on defense and one on special teams.
They should be able to continue scoring points as they take on Jacksonville in Week 4, but that struggling run defense will be challenged. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew skipped training camp, and had reasonable success in losses against Minnesota (77 yards on 18 carries) and Houston (60 yards on 12 carries) but he exploded for 177 yards and his first touchdown of the season in a 22-17 win over Indianapolis in Week 3.
He's definitely a focal point in Cincinnati's defensive game plan.
Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country is concerned with the Bengals receivers. And with good reason. As he points out, the Bengals are averaging 291 passing yards per game, led by the freakish A.J. Green (311 yards, two touchdowns).
Expect Jacksonville to try to establish the run, keeping Green and his high-powered buddies off the field, and make Cincinnati find the toughness up front they had last season. Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert is still among the least productive passers in the game, and the Bengals will stack the box, making it extremely difficult to let the Jaguars' ground game beat them.
Jacksonville doesn't stop the run all that well, either, and if Cincinnati wanted to let RB Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis have a big game, this one would be it. If the Bengals are able to establish the run and bring play-action into the fold, they'll continue around their 30+ points a game average, and Jacksonville will fall to 1-3.
The Bengals would keep pace with the Ravens, and stay a 1.5 games ahead of the idle Steelers in the AFC North.