As the NFL tries to figure out when one AFC North vs. AFC South matchup will be played, we at least know that another such contest is on track to be played this Sunday.
The Cincinnati Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars are squaring off in Paul Brown Stadium for a Week 4 game. The AFC’s two cat teams each took an L on the last two renditions of Thursday Night Football, but as the Jaguars’ young quarterback is trending downwards, the Bengals’ signal-caller has seen his stock rising since Week 1.
Joe Burrow and Gardner Minshew II are both coming into this game with something to prove. Burrow has yet to secure an NFL victory so far in his rookie season despite landing in the top 10 of Pro Football Focus’ offense grades for quarterbacks through three weeks. He’s put together three-straight gutsy outings and has notably progressed after each game, but a true winning performance has yet to materialize.
Minshew on the other hand started the season red hot. He put together a near-perfect game in a Week 1 divisional victory over the Indianapolis Colts, but was out-dueled against the Tennessee Titans and simply rendered ineffective against the Miami Dolphins in primetime. Any pre-conceived notions about the Jaguars tanking under his command have likely been debunked, though. He may not be good enough to do anything meaningful, but he belongs in the league in some capacity. It may just be too early to truly tell.
What’s not too early to tell is if the Bengals’ offensive line is bad or not. It is, and even if most of the issues are derived from one side of the unit, it’s not looking like any proactive changes are on the horizon. Bobby Hart remains the unquestioned starter at right tackle, and no one even knows who’s going to be playing against him at right guard.
Lucky for them, Jacksonville’s pass rush will likely be the tamest group they’ll face to date, so perhaps Burrow won’t get hit as much as did in September. If the Bengals expect to win like the 3.5-point favorites they are—in front of a few thousand fans at home for the first time this year—they will on the upright shoulders of their first-overall draft pick from five months ago.
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