The third and most important week of the NFL preseason concludes on Sunday night this week from Jacksonville when the Jaguars host the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s the first time eve the two AFC clubs will play a preseason game, which is surprising. The Jaguars are slight betting favourites on Sports Interaction NFL odds.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Point Spread: Jaguars -1.5 Over/under: 43.5 Date: Sunday, Aug. 28, 8 p.m. ET Location:EverBank Field, Jacksonville
Cincinnati has been a playoff team each of the past five years and will likely be again in 2016, assuming they stay healthy. But the pressure is squarely on head coach Marvin Lewis, as the Bengals have been one-and-done in the postseason each of those five years. Lewis is 0-7 in his postseason career and if Cincinnati doesn’t win at least one playoff game this year, he might not see another season after this one with this organization. Incidentally, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, the longest drought in the NFL. Cincinnati is given a wins total of 9.5 on NFL odds this year, with the over a -147 favourite.
In general, starters play the most in the preseason in a team’s second-to-last game because then they usually don’t play at all in the finale. The Bengals opened the preseason with a 17-16 home loss to Minnesota and then won in Detroit last Thursday, 30-14. Andy Dalton, who missed the end of last season, including the playoff loss to Pittsburgh, was 7-for-9 for 78 yards against the Lions. Backup QB A.J. McCarron, the two-time former national champion at Alabama, was 10-for-15 for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Bengals Hoping LaFell Will Debut
If there’s one thing you want to watch for on the Bengals in the preseason, it’s who emerges as the No. 2 receiver opposite star A.J. Green. Cincinnati lost both Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones to free agency this offseason. The expected No. 2 is Brandon LaFell, who caught 37 balls for 515 yards last year with New England. However, he has missed both preseason games due to a torn ligament in his hand, which could lead to surgery. That said, he is expected to play against Jacksonville so that’s a good sign. The Bengals took Tyler Boyd with their second-round pick in this year’s draft and he has looked good thus far and could take the No. 2 role over from LaFell.
Meanwhile, the Bengals remain without Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert. He had ankle surgery in May after originally getting injured in the Pro Bowl. It’s likely that Eifert will not be ready for Week 1 of the regular season.
Jacksonville hasn’t finished with a winning record or made the playoffs since 2007, and Coach Gus Bradley is likely on the hottest seat in the NFL. A lot of experts believe the Jaguars are a team on the rise with some terrific young talent like quarterback Blake Bortles, receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, and defensive players such as Dante Fowler Jr., Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey. Fowler, a pass-rushing end, was the Jags’ No. 3 overall pick last year but was hurt in OTAs and missed the season. He has been a monster in camp and the preseason this year.
Ramsey and Jack were graded as the top two defensive players in the 2016 draft by several scouts; Jacksonville took Ramsey, a cornerback, No. 5 overall and then the Jaguars were able to get Jack, a linebacker from UCLA , early in Round 2 because there were worries he might need knee surgery at some point. Jacksonville has a wins total of 7.5 this season on NFL odds, with the over a -140 favourite.
Bortles Has Been Strong In Preseason
The Jaguars opened the preseason with a 17-13 loss at the New York Jets and then were beaten 27-21 at home last Saturday by Tampa Bay. Bortles has been sharp this preseason, completing 14 of 18 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns. It’s expected that Kelvin Beachum or Luke Joeckel will start at left tackle with the other starting at left guard.
Bengals vs. Jaguars Prediction
The Jags are a younger team so actually winning the game might have more relevance to them simply to teach the players about winning, especially as they are 0-2 and in their final home game. The Bengals are largely a veteran team so there’s less importance in that regard. So, Jacksonville and the under.