We’re now four weeks into the 2020 NFL season, and the Cincinnati Bengals have yet to experience the taste of victory.
They come into this Sunday’s contest with an 0-2-1 record, having lost or tied each game this year by a grand total of 8 points. The draw came in Week 3 versus the Philadelphia Eagles, when Cincy failed to capitalize on three different scoring opportunities in overtime that would’ve won the game. The final score was 23-23, a true rarity in the National Football League.
In Week 4. the Bengals will be back home, hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are 1-2 on the year and coming off of back-to-back losses.
Cincinnati has emerged victorious in four of their previous six matchups. However, Jacksonville has won the last two, the most recent being last season; a 27-17 game at Paul Brown Stadium. The Jaguars also lead the all-time series between the two teams with a 13-9 edge.
Kickoff: Sunday, October 4th, 2020. at 1:00 PM ET.
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH.
Television Broadcast: The game will be aired on CBS-TV. Locally, it will air in the usual Bengals TV region, as well as select areas of Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Indiana, per 506 Sports. The play-by-play will be done by Tom McCarthy, and former NFL kicker Jay Feely will serve as the analyst.
Radio Broadcast: The matchup will be aired locally via Bengals Radio Network. The radio broadcast will be headed by Cincinnati flagship stations WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530), WEBN-FM (102.7), and WLM-AM (700). Dan Hoard will handle the play-by-play while Dave Lapham will work as analyst. Wayne Box Miller will do the pregame show, which starts at 11:30 AM EST.
Weather: High near 62. Partly cloudy with on-and-off rain throughout the afternoon. 68% humidity and winds SSW at 5-10 mph. 40% chance of rain. (The Weather Channel)
Line: Cin -3.0
Three Things To Watch
- Can the offense finally integrate the deep ball?
Prior to Week 3’s match in Philly, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor emphasized getting the vertical passing game going and connecting on the “big plays.” As it stands, rookie quarterback Joe Burrow ranks second in the league in passing attempts (141), yet he’s 31 out of 33 eligible QBs in lowest yards per attempt with an inadequate 5.8 average. The offense was able to generate a couple of big plays against the Eagles, with completions of 25 and 42 yards to WR Tyler Boyd and RB Gio Bernard, respectively. In the first two weeks, the two longest plays the Bengals were able to create were gains of 19 and 23 yards. The low-yardage attempts for Burrow are pretty pedestrian, and being able to connect on more deep shots downfield will only open up the offense and demand more respect from defenses. Not to mention, Coach Taylor came over from a vertical passing machine in the Los Angeles Rams, under the young and innovative Sean McVay.
- What will be the wide receiver rotation?
Last week, former first-round pick John Ross III landed on the dreaded inactive list as a “healthy scratch” designation. Enter rookie WR Tee Higgins. Higgins had himself a day in Philadelphia, finishing the game with five catches for 40 yards and two touchdowns. What was important to note was the fact that Higgins’ nine targets were the second-most on the day, in addition to logging 79% of the offensive snaps. It’s safe to say his performance has garnered more playing time, even if not listed as the official “starter.” An eye should also be kept on receiver Mike Thomas, who scored a nice TD in Week 2 and played 22% of the snaps in Week 3.
- Offensive line shake-up…
To no one’s surprise, the Cincinnati O-line gave us another uninspired effort in the game against the Eagles. Just in case you missed it in Week 3’s review, the Bengals offensive line gave up eight sacks and 18 QB hits. Those are absolutely unacceptable numbers, whether you have a rookie quarterback at the helm or not. Following the game, there were rumblings in the “Bengalsphere” about making some kind of moves to patch up this porous line. On Monday, Cincy promoted guard Keaton Sutherland from the practice squad, and waived guard Shaq Calhoun. Offensive line coach Jim Turner told reporters on Wednesday that right tackle Bobby Hart, who’s been heavily scrutinized by the fanbase, has been “playing the best ball of his career.” Turner also hinted at rookie seventh-rounder Hakeem Adeniji eventually receiving some snaps at center, stressing the importance of versatility. A shake-up for the O-line may prove crucial to the success of the sought-after deep passes, as well as getting the running game going, once and for all.
Keys To Victory
- Aggressive run defense – Jacksonville has a surprise weapon in their bag this season. Their undrafted rookie running back James Robinson has hit the ground running, already ninth in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage, and 12th in rushing yards. This is coming at a 4.9 YPC clip, while adding 127 receiving yards and three total TDs. The Jaguars don’t have what you would call a “prolific” offense, and they are coming off of an embarrassing loss on national television to the Miami Dolphins. Jacksonville will want to feature Robinson early and often, so Cincinnati’s struggling defensive front should look to play the run very aggressively and limit the chunk yardage. Robinson is a powerful downhill runner.
- Press up on speedy receivers – The Jags are also getting a major boost with the return of their WR1, D.J. Chark. Coming off a 1,000-yard season, the 4.3 speedster poses a big threat, and is a favorable target for QB Gardner Minshew. WRs Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, and Chris Conley also each have the ability to get by defenders. The Bengals’ defensive backs need to disrupt that speed by providing press coverage rather than letting the Jacksonville receivers get free releases. Minshew is guaranteed to take some shots downfield this week.
- Establish the long-awaited rush attack – Cincy has yet to get anything going in their running game. After signing a lucrative deal in the offseason, Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon hasn’t broke the 70-yard mark, and he’s only gained more than 50 yards in one game thus far. As the running game is able to produce more, it will inevitably open up space to be able to hit those deep shots in the passing game — and alleviate some pressure on Burrow, of course.
- Overwhelm a weak O-line – The offensive line of the Jaguars has given up 10 sacks on the season, and are going to be without their stud center Brandon Linder, who’s still out with a knee injury. They do have a solid left guard in Andrew Norwell, but other than that, there remains a group of below-average players. Defensive tackle D.J. Reader should feast at this opportunity, as should defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson, who are both coming off of stellar performances last week. The Bengals should blitz heavily on this line and pressure Gardner Minshew into getting the ball out quickly.
- The Bengals have signed linebacker Kendall Donnerson to the practice squad, and released offensive tackle Josh Knipfel from the practice squad.
- ESPN’s Ben Baby expects Alex Redmond to start at right guard, taking the place of Fred Johnson.
- Cincinnati wide receiver Mike Thomas said recently in a video call that he was inspired to play football by none other than Bengals legend Chad Johnson.
- Between 1995 and 2001, the Bengals and Jaguars were division rivals in the then-AFC Central.
(Featured Image Credit: Chris Szagola for AP Photos / Bengals.com)