Cincinnati comes in riding what's been a wide-open passing attack led by their soulless quarterback, Andy
Pennington Dalton, along with the sensational second-year wide receiver and former University of Georgia standout, A.J. Green. Though the offense will be a viable threat to the Jaguars on Sunday, this is more or less the same Bengals team that the Jaguars were a couple of bone-headed "Del Rio-era plays" away from beating at home, roughly this same time last year.
With both teams ending the first "quarter pole" of the 2012 season following this game, and the possibility of both teams ending September at .500 and well in the race towards January, this has the makings of what could be a pivotal conference game for both teams when all is said and done. With that said, here are three things to watch for the Bengals, as they take the field on Sunday.
1. You Got a Receiver, He's Got a Receiver, EVERYBODY GOT RECEIVERS!
The Bengals enter Sunday's game with the league's 4th ranked passing attack, averaging 291 yards a game through the air. Cincinnati has been led by second-year star A.J. Green, currently second in the NFL in Yards with 311, fourth in Yards Per Game with 103.7, and tied with a host of players for 11th in touchdown catches with 2. While Green will get the primary attention of Mel Tucker and the Jags defense, this is not the same one-man show as it was the last time these two teams met in 2011. The Bengals also feature their own version of Minnesota's Percy Harvin, in second year man Andrew Hawkins. "The Hawk", is currently 27th in the league in yardage with 208 yards in 3 games off 12 receptions and 2 touchdowns, ranking only slightly behind Houston's Andre Johnson and Chicago's Brandon Marshall. Hawkins has brought the Bengals a versatile weapon in both the pass and running games, and they like to use him much as the Vikings use Harvin's speed and versatility. Along with Hawkins, is another young receiver in Armon Binns, who like Hawkins has 12 receptions which he's turned into 157 yards and touchdown thus far. Binns has offered a solid possession option, averaging 13 yards per catch this season. If Binns' name sounds familiar to Jaguars fans, it's because he was originally a member of the Jags after being signed in 2011 as an undrafted free agent, before being released by, "We're happy with the guys we have", Gene Smith following the '11 preseason. Tight end Jermaine Gresham also serves as a potential target for Andy Dalton on every pass play, and is a dangerous player if not accounted for.
2. Up and Coming Johnson
While the Bengals enter the game ranked a putrid 29th overall in team defense, one spot below the Jaguars, they do rank 4th in the league in sacks with 11. Leading the way for Cincinnati is defensive end Michael Johnson. The fourth-year player from Georgia Tech, is a physical monster, registering at a giant frame of 6'7 270 pounds. After going through week one without tallying a sack, the large Johnson has really penetrated well in recent weeks, notching a sack and 3 tackles against Cleveland in week 2 and having a money-shot game last week against the Redskins finishing with a 3 sack performance to go along with 6 tackles. The return of former Gator Carlos Dunlap from injury, should do nothing but help him continue to progress and the Jaguars will likely have their hands full as Johnson tries his best to be yet another pain in Blaine Gabbert's glute.
3. Don't Cross The Firm
Cincinnati brings "The Law Firm" to town on Sunday, as BenJarvus Green-Ellis leads the 15th ranked rushing attack against a Jaguars run defense that has floundered to near the bottom of the league's rankings after three games. While Green-Ellis hasn't provided much in the way of "game breaking" plays since coming over this off-season from the New England Patriots, he has proven capable of being a more than adequate weapon when facing a bad defense particularly in goal line situations. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they have shown to be such a defense thus far. If the Bengals are able to get BGE going early, especially with the Jags likely focusing much of their attention on defending the formidable passing attack, it could be the first big day of the season for "The Law Firm" and a long, long day for the Jags defense and in turn, their fans.