The Jags are coming off a huge road victory over the Houston Texans where they took a commanding lead atop the AFC South and are hoping to continue that momentum this evening. A victory tonight would give them eight wins in their last nine games and would keep the team alive in the race for the AFC’s top seed.
The Cincinnati Bengals might not be the same type of threat without Joe Burrow, but they still have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball that could present problems for Jacksonville if they don’t come to play.
In fact, the Bengals get a significant piece of their offense back this week as Tee Higgins is set to return to the lineup after missing the last three games with a quad injury. He and Ja’Marr Chase are one of the best receiving duos in the NFL today and will look to make things easier for Jake Browning and a Cincinnati offense that is desperate for a win right now.
On paper, the Jaguars (-8.5) should win this one going away but anything can happen in the National Football League so they will need some big performances from key areas if they’re going to put on a show in prime-time. Here are the three biggest X-factors for a Jags victory tonight.
Josh Allen is having one of the best years a Jaguars pass rusher has ever had. Through eleven games, Allen has 12 sacks and is on pace to shatter Calais Campbell’s franchise sack record of 14.5.
The impact he’s made on the Jacksonville defense this season can’t be overstated, and he should, at the very least, be in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year. While his odds are still long for that honor, he has a prime opportunity tonight to gain some ground.
He will be getting after an inexperienced quarterback in Jake Browning, who has been sacked seven times in just six and a half quarters of play since replacing Joe Burrow.
Pair that with the fact that the Bengals are dead last in the NFL in rushing, and you have the makings of yet another big night for the unquestioned MVP of the Jacksonville defense.
The Ezra Cleveland trade just before the deadline has suddenly become huge for the Jacksonville Jaguars offense.
With Cam Robinson now on IR with a knee injury he suffered against Houston, Walker Little returns to his more natural position at left tackle. This allows Cleveland to replace Little at left guard; a spot that has plagued the Jags with inconsistency all season.
Cleveland’s inclusion on that offensive line resulted in arguably the group’s most complete performance of the season against the Texans. They allowed zero sacks and just four pressures as Trevor Lawrence tallied a season-high 364 yards, with 42 of them coming off a screen pass where Cleveland led the way for a D’Ernest Johnson highlight reel play.
Now, with a full week of reps with the starters, Cleveland should play a big role yet again on Monday night. His reliability in both the pass and run game will be a significant factor in the success of the offense against a Cincinnati defense with a lot of talent on their front four.
Jacksonville offensive coordinator Press Taylor is set to duel with his big brother Zac tonight in a brotherly battle of offensive minds in the AFC.
The two haven’t faced off since 2020 when Press and Doug Pederson were together in Philadelphia. In that one, the Eagles and Bengals finished the game in a rare 23 to 23 tie, so this game gives them an opportunity to solve that unfinished business.
With the injury to Joe Burrow, Zac Taylor’s offense hasn’t been humming like we’ve become accustomed to. They currently rank 27th in total offense per game and 23rd in scoring offense. Meanwhile, Press’s offense, under the guidance of Pederson, is 13th and 10th respectively in those areas.
While the circumstances are unfortunate for Cincinnati heading into this prime-time contest, this is a big opportunity for Press to outshine his brother as he works to prove he has a future as a head coach in this league. Don’t be surprised if Press reaches deep into his bag of tricks in a game that could become a chess match of offensive play-calling on Monday Night Football.