Two teams are facing off down south as they attempt to cling on to AFC playoff positioning. This Week 9 clash features two strong defenses and two squads who have differing statistical strengths and weaknesses.
Here are the five keys for a Bengals victory over the Jaguars on Sunday.
Sell out on stopping Leonard Fournette
There were many people who were reluctant on the possibility of the Bengals selecting Fournette, should he have slipped their way, but he has translated his massive NCAA success excellently in the first six games of his NFL career.
The Jaguars have the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL and Fournette is averaging 99.3 yards and a touchdown per game. Cincinnati’s defense is No. 18 against the run and are likely to be without Kevin Minter this week. If the Bengals can’t stop Fournette, they aren’t going to win.
Establish the run, by any means necessary
For all of the great things the Jaguars do on defense, stopping the run isn’t one of them. They are ranked dead last in the NFL, in terms of rush yards allowed per game with 138.6
Cincinnati, on the other hand, is ranked 30th in the league in average rush yards per game. Something’s got to give here and if the breaks fall in the Bengals’ favor, they should be able to ride their backs to a much-needed win. Hello, Joe Mixon!
Keep an eye on the tight ends
Yes, keeping Fournette in check should be priority No. 1 for the Bengals’ defense, but they need to be able to guard tight ends as well. Last week, Jack Doyle almost led the Colts to a win with a great performance.
Marcedes Lewis has four touchdowns on the year, including three alone against the Ravens. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is gone for the year, so Blake Bortles will look at the big targets as outlets on Sunday.
Get occasionally tricky on offense
Being able to get good yardage on the ground consistently would be a first for the 2017 Bengals offense, but being vanilla as a unit won’t work for the entire game on Sunday. The Jaguars are excellent in pass defense, due to their employment of many great players in the back level of their defense. The Jaguars’ 33 sacks lead the NFL by a large margin and the offensive line should be on full alert.
Cincinnati’s offense has been full of peaks and valleys this year. The explosive plays just haven’t been there and they’ve walked the razor’s edge with turnovers often this year. Bill Lazor might need to add some creative wrinkles to the passing offense to work around the athletic, but inexperienced members of the Jacksonville defense.
Frustrate Blake Bortles:
This one’s obvious, but getting to Bortles’ head is something the Bengals’ defense wants to achieve. After regressing a bit in 2016 after a great 2015 season, a lot of pressure is on the former No. 3 overall pick this season.
He has nine touchdowns against five interceptions and two lost fumbles. Jacksonville has only allowed 11 sacks on the year, so the formidable Cincinnati front will need to make life miserable on Bortles on the rare occasion they look away from Fournette and the secondary will need to shut down Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee.
What are your keys to the game?