Prior to the NFL’s division realignment in 2002, the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars were division rivals in the old AFC Central. From the Jaguars’ inception in 1995 through 2001, the two teams met twice per year in a bi-seasonal renewal of their young and not particularly contentious rivalry.
At the time, the Bengals were going through one of their worst stretches in franchise history. A carousel at both head coach and quarterback was a significant reason why the Bengals won their first three games against the Jaguars, but finished 5-9 before moving to different divisions.
In the very first meeting between the two teams, the Bengals rode the hot hand of Jeff Blake, who finished with 247 yards, two touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 114.2. One of his touchdown passes was caught by Carl Pickens. But, interestingly enough, the other one was caught by offensive lineman Melvin Tuten, who was filling in at tight end for that particular play.
A bad game and a very bad quarterback rating (34.7) for Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell definitely didn’t help as the Jaguars went on to lose by a score of 24-17. It was part of a four game losing streak that kicked off their inaugural season and helped lead to a final record of 4-12 on the year.
The Bengals, on the other hand, used the win to help them put together one of their best seasons in years at 7-9. Don’t forget, this was the 90s, and the Bengals had already been horrible for a few years at this point. Unfortunately, after the win, they slipped into a four game losing streak like the Jaguars. But, also like the Jaguars, they broke the streak with a win over a division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bengals’ eventual 7-9 finish certainly isn’t anything to brag about. But, it did infuse some temporary hope in an otherwise downtrodden fanbase.
The two teams have met six times since realignment. In stark contrast to their all-time record as division rivals, the Bengals lost their first two meetings with the Jaguars as members of separate divisions. But, since 2008, they have been on an unbeaten streak in the regular season, currently at 4-0.
Most recently, the Bengals notched another victory in their all-time series against the Jaguars, currently at 20 games. It was a 33-23 victory on November 2, 2014 that helped the Bengals steady themselves after a three-game losing streak that essentially cancelled out a three game winning streak to start the season.
Bengals fans might better remember it as Jeremy Hill’s discovery. The Bengals selected Hill with the No. 55 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft with the intention of replacing the steady but uninspired BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Prior to the Week 9 game against the Jaguars, Hill had only found minimal use as Bernard’s backup.
He had a few notable plays here and there, but it was a 60 yard run from scrimmage for a touchdown that allowed Hill to announce his presence to the NFL.
The run was a critical one as the Jaguars were in the middle of a late 13-point comeback that saw the Bengals’ lead diminish to only three points. Hill’s touchdown completely deflated a surging Jaguars team that turned the ball over on the ensuing drive, allowing the Bengals to run time off the clock and essentially seal the win.
For the Bengals, the game was part of a 7-3 late season surge that saw them make the playoffs as the No. 5 seeded Wild Card team. They barely beat out the No. 6 seeded Ravens (10-6) and finished ahead of a four way tie for the No. 7 team between the Texans, Chiefs, Chargers, and Bills (9-7).
For the Jaguars, it was yet another bad game in an abysmal 3-13 season and an 0-8 record on the road. They went on to secure the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, a pick they used on University of Florida standout defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. Unfortunately, Fowler was out for the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL and didn’t make his Jaguars debut until a couple of weeks ago when the Jaguars kicked off the preseason against the Jets. He has been playing well in this year’s training camp despite a few extracurricular altercations. But, he hasn’t yet recorded any stats in the preseason. He will look to rectify that against the Bengals’ starters on Sunday.
On Sunday, the Bengals will host the Jacksonville Jaguars for the preseason dress rehearsal. Based on the play of the starters so far this preseason, it would seem as though the Bengals are in much better position to find success in the game. But, it’s still an exhibition matchup where the real goal is developing players and getting ready for when the games start to count in September.