JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2020 season, 10 Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Bucky Brooks, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will break down the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They get something going early. The Jaguars have been outscored 35-7 in the first quarter and have allowed a touchdown on the opening drive of their first three games. Getting the ball first and scoring early is a must if they're going to win on the road. This is also a game in which they should be able to generate some quarterback pressure. The Philadelphia Eagles sacked Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow eight times last week.
The Bengals will win if: Burrow is able to pick apart the Jaguars' defense. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Burrow has looked the part early in his career and has the weapons to take advantage of Jacksonville's youth in its secondary. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 80 percent of their passes against the Jaguars. If Burrow can do the same, the Bengals will be difficult to beat.
As Ballou sees it: The Jaguars will look alive and play hard for sixty minutes. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II will get things going offensively and the offense will have a good mixture of both the run and pass. The Bengals will take advantage of some Jaguars turnovers and costly penalties and get it done late in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati will get its first victory of the season, 31-28.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if: They find a pass rush on defense and run the ball with James Robinson on offense. The Bengals' offensive line is not very good, meaning Josh Allen and his mates will need to have a big day hitting Burrow all day. When the Jags have the ball, it will be a great opportunity to take advantage of one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Feed Robinson the ball all day!
The Bengals will win if: They turn the game into a track meet. Burrow has looked outstanding in early games this year and has an outstanding group of receivers led by A.J. Green. If the Jaguars can't affect Burrow, the Bengals will have a great chance to get their first win of the season.
As Boselli sees it: The Jaguars' defense will find a pass rush, led by Allen, against one of the leakier offensive lines in the NFL. Look for them to get a couple of turnovers and give the Jags' offense a short field multiple times. Robinson will have a big day with over 100 yards rushing and multiple touchdowns. The Jaguars will win, 31-24!
Bucky Brooks, Jaguars and NFL Network Analyst
The Bengals will win if: Burrow is able to consistently throw from a clean pocket. Despite facing constant harassment in the pocket, the rookie has dazzled as a passer by completing 64.1 percent of his passes with a five-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio. With a solid supporting cast that includes three legitimate pass-catchers (Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green, and Tee Higgins) and a dynamic running back (Joe Mixon), the Bengals have enough weapons to support Burrow if he has enough time to go through his progressions. Considering the inconsistent pressure and coverage we've seen from the Jaguars, the rookie quarterback could post big numbers in a matchup that skews in the favor of the Bengals' offense.
The Jaguars will win if: Minshew gets back on track. The second-year pro struggled with his accuracy and decisions against the Dolphins' umbrella coverage. He needs to rediscover his rhythm early against the Bengals and help the Jaguars' offense score early to help the defense play with a lead. If Minshew gets back to connecting the dots from the pocket instead of attempting "hero" throws under duress, the Jaguars have enough weapons to score against a gritty Bengals defense that has played better than expected this season.
As Brooks sees it: This is a must-win game for the Jaguars at this point in the season. They must finish the quarter with a 2-2 record to build momentum heading into a manageable part of their schedule. That urgency should be enough to prompt a spirited effort from a struggling defense that was embarrassed a week ago in primetime. With that in mind, I expect Josh Allen and Co. to take care of business on defense and set up the offense with a couple of scoring opportunities on short fields. The improved play from the unit should be enough for a hard-fought road win that puts them back in the mix in the AFC South.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They start a little faster. They must quit digging themselves 14-point holes. It stresses the offense and defense, affects play-calling, how they are defended, etc. Jacksonville must strike first or at least hold serve early. Part of that is with better coverage; receivers are running open against the Jaguars. Covering better is a good starting point.
The Bengals will win if: They get some early confidence for Burrow with early big plays. That also will have Jacksonville doubting itself some. They also must get running back Joe Mixon going.
As Frangie sees it: This one will come down to the wire, a fourth-quarter game. The team that makes one more play at the end wins.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: They can start fast and have a very effective running game. The Bengals have not been very good against the run; if the Jags can play without being immediately behind, they can stick with the running game and what has been their best player in rookie running back James Robinson. The explosive plays will follow in the passing game with play action.
The Bengals will win if: Burrow is comfortable in the pocket. The Bengals' offensive line has struggled in both the running game and protecting their quarterback. Mixon has yet to have an impact; if he gets rolling then gets to favorable down and distances, the Jaguars will have trouble pressuring Burrow.
As Lageman sees it: This is a tough one to call. The Bengals' weakness of protecting the quarterback is matched up against the Jaguars' weakness of getting pressure as a defense. The Jaguars' offensive line will be tested on the edges and Minshew may have to make some things happen outside the pocket. The two young quarterbacks will make this an exciting game. Special teams advantage lays with the Bengals this week and could be the difference in the game.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: Let's try this again like last week: If they take a first-half lead. The Jaguars might be the better team, but you can't keep playing from behind. Can the Jaguars dictate the action with the lead and then allow their defense to make some plays? I think it's a victory if they play out front on the road.
The Bengals will win if: Burrow has a breakout game. This is all about the Bengals' passing game against the Jaguars' defense. The stats are ugly with the Jaguars' defense, but the stats are ugly with the Bengals offensive line, too. If the rookie quarterback has time to throw, he has a chance to pile up some numbers and win the game.
As Martineau sees it: The Jags have confused me. I'm not sure who they are, and I didn't like this game at the beginning of the year. I have to see the Jaguars' defensive line create some havoc before I believe in the unit. Cincinnati is not that bad, and the Bengals come in desperate for a W. I think this is a field-goal game. Given the Jaguars' kicking situation, I think the Bengals will win a close game.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They run well and force two turnovers. The Bengals have been vulnerable to the run for three seasons, and the Jaguars have run consistently well this season when they have kept games close enough to utilize Robinson. The Jaguars must win the turnover battle: They are 1-0 when winning the statistic and 0-2 when losing it. That's not a coincidence.
The Bengals will win if: They get the Jaguars' defensive front blocked. Burrow has been sacked a league-high 14 times in three games, but he has been effective when given time. The Jaguars have just three sacks in three games. If they can't get pressure against a struggling offensive line, the Jaguars could struggle Sunday.
As Oehser sees it: This is a worrisome game for the Jaguars. The Bengals have talented skill players, and Burrow looks far better than a "normal rookie quarterback." My sense is the Jaguars will play well Sunday – far better than they did in a loss to Miami last Thursday. But playing better may not be enough Sunday against an improved Bengals team that feels ready to win.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They can pressure Burrow. He hasn't notched his first victory yet, but he has been impressive in three games – completing 65 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and one interception. If the Jaguars can force him to make typical rookie mistakes, it will give a decided advantage to their secondary against Boyd and Green.
The Bengals will win if: They can replicate the Dolphins' defensive game plan. Teams that can play that same style of soft zone down the field while using an outside rush to contain Minshew have been able to neutralize the Jaguars' enigmatic quarterback.
As Sexton sees it: This one is a toss-up. Burrow is comfortable in the pocket and with Boyd coming off a huge game – and Green always capable of one – the Bengals are dangerous. If Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. returns and Minshew gets back to his gunslinging ways, the Jaguars can protect their defense with a high output offense. Which will happen? That's why they play the game.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: They get the running game established. This means the game is within reach and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will not feel like he must call passing plays all day to play catch-up. Give Robinson an opportunity to run behind the offensive line in a tight game – or one the Jaguars are leading – and let's see if the Jaguars can run over the Bengals for a second straight season. Additional benefits to this approach: Burrow – and the Jaguars' defense – are on the sideline longer.
The Bengals will win if: Burrow has time to stand in the pocket and throw. Even with the beating the Eagles put on him last week, they could not rattle his confidence. For the season: 14 sacks of Burrow with 31 hits by opposing defenses – and he's still good, even with that pressure. Without the pressure, he could be great. This is the week for the Jaguars' pass rush to get going. If it doesn't this week, it might not at all.
As Shadrick sees it: After a performance they'd like back from last Thursday night, this young Jaguars team needs a confidence booster. A win this week would steady the ship – at least until next week's game – but a third-straight loss would truly test the resiliency of this team at 1-3. Winning the first quarter of the game would be a great start.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: They start fast. This is no secret: If the Jaguars continue to play from behind and try to dig themselves out of 14-0 deficits, they are not going to win. The coaching staff has put a strong emphasis on scoring quickly and playing strong defense from the start. I do not want to see Burrow play with a lead. That could be ugly.
The Bengals will win if: Cincinnati's offensive line protects Burrow better than they have so far this season. Burrow has taken 14 sacks in the past three weeks, the most of any QB in the NFL. Even with all that pressure, Burrow has still been very successful. If the Jaguars' pass rush cannot come to life this week and if the secondary makes the same mistakes that we saw against the Dolphins, I think the Bengals will beat the Jaguars based off their offensive performance.
As Sullivan sees it: The Jaguars will win a close game in Cincinnati – possibly by a field goal. Despite the winless record, Cincinnati matches up well against Jacksonville with their offensive playmakers. The Jaguars must play as they did Week 1 against the Colts to win. This is in no way a gimme. The Bengals are improving each week and are bound to win one eventually.