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Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Prediction, preview, pick to win
Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-4) AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-3)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Everbank Field. TV: CBS, Andrew Catalon, James Lofton.

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SERIES HISTORY: 21st regular-season meeting. Jaguars lead series, 11-9. The Bengals and Jaguars were members of the AFC Central from 1995 to 2001 and have played each other seven times since 2002 realignment moved the Bengals to the AFC North and the Jaguars to the AFC South. The last meeting was in 2014, when Cincinnati won at home, 33-23. The Bengals have won the last four meetings, including the last three by 10 points or more.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bengals have one of the best red-zone defenses in the NFL. The Jaguars have one of the best red-zone offenses in the league. Which team takes advantage of its red-zone opportunities will have the advantage in this game.

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Turnovers, on both sides of the ball, have been an issue for Cincinnati, which owns a minus-9 turnover margin, third worst in the NFL.

The Jaguars' pass rush will try to force quarterback Andy Dalton to make mistakes, but he has been pretty steady in that regard all season. The Bengals are averaging 3.2 yards per carry. That must be better, or Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue will tee off on Dalton. The Jaguars have an NFL-leading 33 sacks and have recorded 10 twice. Dalton has been sacked 22 times this season and hit more than that.

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With running back Leonard Fournette likely to return to the starting lineup, the Jaguars' offensive plan will be pretty simple -- run, run, run and then run some more. Fournette has shown he has the talent to be among the league's top runners and, after an extra week off to rest his sprained ankle, he'll have fresh legs with which to add to his 596 rushing yards.

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T.J. Yeldon's 122-yard performance against the Colts when Fournette was out showed the Jaguars have more than one able body to carry the ball. They also have powerful Chris Ivory, who can break loose for a 100-yard effort at any time. The Jaguars will pass only when they have a third-and-long, or if the Bengals load up with eight men in the box and openly challenge them to throw the ball. Otherwise, it will be a run-dominant offense that could get to the 200-yard mark against Cincinnati's 18th-ranked rushing attack.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey. This will be a matchup of elite vs. elite. The Bengals' passing game goes through Green, one of the league's most talented receivers who can not only run past defenders but can win most jump-ball situations. He ranks fourth in the league in receiving yards (572) and has done it on a low number of receptions (38), which is only 17th. Green's 15.1 yards per catch are second in the NFL among receivers with at least 30 catches. He'll be tested by Ramsey, with A.J. Bouye also getting some time on Green. Ramsey has proven to be among the league's best in shutting down opposing teams' best receivers. Ramsey has a league-best 11 passes defensed.

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--Jaguars LG Patrick Omameh vs. Bengals DT Geno Atkins. This matchup will likely determine how successful the Jaguars' running game is. They like to run to the left a lot, with Fournette cutting between the tackle and guard spots. That's where he'll encounter Atkins, who lines up on the right side of the Bengals' defensive front. Atkins has 25 sacks since the start of 2015 and who played 57 of 74 snaps (77 percent) against Indianapolis last week. Omameh has been solid but has occasional lapses. He'll likely get help from C Brandon Linder to try to move Atkins or at least screen him to allow Fournette and others to get to the next level. Atkins leads a defensive charge that has been especially tough in the red zone, allowing just eight touchdowns in 24 possessions for an NFL-best 33.3 percentage.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Jaguars DT Marcell Dareus. There will be plenty of eyes on Dareus in his first game in a Jaguars uniform. The hope is that he's the missing ingredient for a defense that has struggled to stop running attacks. The Jaguars are dead last in rushing yards allowed per game and per attempt. Dareus and his 330 pounds will take up a lot of space in the interior, where the Jaguars have had the most problems.

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FAST FACTS: Cincinnati rookie RB Joe Mixon had a career-high 91 receiving yards in Week 8. He is one of two NFL rookies (Kareem Hunt) with 250 rushing yards (253) and 150 receiving yards (189). ... Bengals WR A.J. Green had a TD catch last week and has four in the past five games. In two career games at Jacksonville, he has 207 receiving yards and two TD catches. ... Bengals DT Geno Atkins had a sack in Week 8. He had two sacks in his last game at Jacksonville (2012). Since entering the league in 2010, he has 57 sacks, most among NFL defensive tackles. ... Jaguars QB Blake Bortles passed for 330 yards and a TD in Week 7. He has five passing TDs and one interception in his past two games at home. ... Jaguars rookie RB Leonard Fournette has rushed for 311 yards (155.5 per game) and three TDs in his past two games. He is aiming for his third straight game with 130 rushing yards and a TD. He is the only AFC player with 500 rushing yards (596) and six rushing TDs (6). ... WR Allen Hurns had 101 receiving yards in Week 7, his eighth career 100-yard game. ... The Jaguars lead the NFL with 33 sacks. They had 10 sacks in Week 7 and are the first team in NFL history with 10 sacks in two of the first seven games. ... DE Calais Campbell had two sacks in Week 7. He has three multi-sack games in 2017, tied for most in the NFL. He is tied for second in the league with 10 sacks, most by a player in his first seven games with a new team. ... Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue had a career-high 2.5 sacks in Week 7. He has 4.5 sacks in his past four games.

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PREDICTION: The Jaguars haven't won at Everbank Field this season but the return of Fournette will give the offense enough of a boost to send Jacksonville fans home happy.

OUR PICK: Jaguars, 27-17.

--Ellen Port

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