The Cincinnati Bengals are still chasing that elusive first win as they host the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7. The action gets started at 1:00 EST on Sunday, October 20 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Fans in local markets can watch the game on CBS.
According to the Week 7 NFL odds, the Jaguars are 3.5-point favorites on the road. The game also has an over/under of 44 points.
As mentioned, the Bengals remain winless on the season under first-year head coach Zac Taylor. For what it’s worth, four of Cincy’s six losses have come by six points or less. They’ve made late pushes the last two weeks against both the Cardinals and Ravens, only to come up one score short in each game.
While few expected the Bengals to be a playoff team this season, nobody thought they’d get this deep into the season without a win. If Cincinnati loses this week, it might be time to start talking about the possibility of going winless this season. To be fair, the Bengals get to play the winless Dolphins in Week 16. But this week’s home game against Jacksonville appears to be the best chance the Bengals have to get a win for the next month or so.
Things aren’t exactly going well for the Jaguars these days either. After getting to 2-2 a few weeks ago, Jacksonville appeared to be in good shape inside a crowded AFC South. But back-to-back losses to the Panthers and Saints have dropped the Jags to 2-4, putting them two games off the pace in the division.
The good news is that the Jaguars have what appear to be two winnable games against the Bengals and the Jets the next two weeks before a showdown with the first-place Texans in London the first week of November. These next three games will be critical for Jacksonville’s season. The Jaguars have what could be a manageable schedule in December. But they first need to win enough games in October and November to put themselves in the playoff hunt when December rolls around.
I won’t say whether the Bengals will get their first win of the season this week. But I think it’ll be another close game for them, so I’ll take the home team and the points. At 2-4, the Jaguars aren’t the kind of team you can trust to beat anybody by a sizable margin, so taking them as a road favorite seems risky. Somehow, the winless Bengals are the safer pick in this game.
While Gardner Minshew has been a great story this year, his performance has started to fade ever since he led that game-winning drive against the Broncos in Week 4. He completed just 14 of 29 passes for 163 yards against the Saints last week. Opposing defenses are starting to figure out how to confuse him and throw him off his game, causing some of that Minshew Magic to disappear.
The caveat is that the Bengals are one of the worst teams in the NFL at defending the run. That could allow the Jaguars to ride Leonard Fournette and ask a little less of Minshew. However, it’s actually running quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray the last two weeks who have given the Cincinnati defense the most problems. That’s not to say that powerful running backs like Fournette haven’t had success against the Cincy defense. But the Bengals did contain James Conner in a loss a few weeks ago, so they won’t get hurt too much unless it’s Minshew making plays outside of the pocket with his legs.
On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars haven’t exactly been stout against the run this year. There will also be a little extra space in the secondary after the Jags finally traded away Jalen Ramsey this week. While the Jacksonville defense kept Teddy Bridgewater in check last week, the likes of Kyle Allen and Joe Flacco have had decent days facing the Jags. That could open the door for Andy Dalton to have a decent game.
Before a dreadful performance last week, Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon had started to get it going. He might be able to do some damage against the Jacksonville defense. The Bengals also got a lot of production last week from Auden Tate. With A.J. Green and John Ross out, Tate stepped up to give Dalton another viable receiver to pair with Tyler Boyd.
One of Cincinnati’s biggest problems this year is struggling in the first half and only coming on strong offensively in the second half. While that’s obviously an issue, I don’t see the Jaguars as being the kind of team that will pull away early. Jacksonville is more comfortable pounding the ball on the ground and playing a close, low-scoring game. That makes it hard to swallow the points and assume the Jags can win by a comfortable margin. I’m not even convinced that Jacksonville will win this game, so I’ll take a chance on the Bengals as home underdogs.