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Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
The Cincinnati Bengals have won two straight shootouts, and they could be headed for another when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars in a matchup of struggling defenses Sunday afternoon. The Jaguars and Bengals rank 28th and 29th, respectively, in total defense, so the offensive stars on both sides might be in for a big game. Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew, who racked up a season-high 177 rushing yards last week, should be poised for another strong outing against the Bengals’ 31st-ranked run defense. The Bengals have done most of their damage through the air but might be able to get more from BenJarvus Green-Ellis against the league’s 30th-ranked run defense.
The challenge for Jacksonville will be providing some balance through the passing game. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s stats were improved dramatically by a game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts in the final minute last week. Before the big play, he had 75 passing yards. The Jaguars might be hard-pressed to keep Gabbert upright against a Bengals defense that leads the AFC with 11 sacks. The Jaguars had won nine of 10 meetings before losing the past two, including a 30-20 defeat at Jacksonville last season. The Jaguars have won seven of nine meetings in Jacksonville.
ABOUT THE BENGALS (2-1): The Bengals’ passing game has been clicking, as Andy Dalton looks for his third consecutive 300-yard game. Dalton has a rising star on the receiving end of many of his passes in A.J. Green, who racked up a career-high 183 receiving yards last week. The Bengals have had a tough time against the run, so expect them to sell out to stop Jones-Drew and force the often-shaky Gabbert to beat them through the air.
ABOUT THE JAGUARS (1-2): Jones-Drew’s holdout has had little effect on his ability, as he ranks second in the NFL with 314 rushing yards. Gabbert’s statistics are less impressive – he’s completed just 50.6 percent of his passes for 468 yards and four touchdowns – but he also has limited his mistakes and has not yet thrown an interception. The defense has been decent against the pass but doesn’t have a lock-down corner, so Green might be a handful.
1. The Bengals have scored five touchdowns of 40 yards or longer this season, including three last week. They had only three scoring plays that long last season.
2. Green’s 183 receiving yards last week were more than any Jacksonville player has this season. Shorts leads the Jaguars with 154 yards on five catches, and Laurent Robinson has 115 yards on eight receptions. No other player has over 100 yards.
3. Dalton’s 105.0 passer rating ranks second in the AFC, and his 158.3 rating in the fourth quarter is the best in the NFL.