Jaguars vs Bengals Preview & Free Pick [September 30th 2021]

Jacksonville (0-3) at Cincinnati (2-1)
When: Thursday, September 30th, 2021
Where: Paul Brown Stadium,
Cincinnati, OH
Time: 8:20 ET | TV: NFLN
Opening Odds: Cincinnati -6.5/46.5

The top overall Draft picks the last two years will be on display Thursday night as Week 4 of the NFL season begins with the Jacksonville Jaguars visiting the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow are no strangers to playing against each other. They battled in the College Football Playoff national championship game following the 2019 season when Burrow’s LSU Tigers stomped Lawrence’s Clemson Tigers 42-25. Burrow won the Heisman Trophy that season and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and Lawrence was the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft as they meet in the NFL for the first time Thursday. It will be only the second ever quarterback meeting between the two most recent first overall picks. The other one was Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and Arizona’s Kyler Murray in Week 15 of the 2019 season.

Lawrence has had a rough start to his career already, leading the NFL with seven interceptions – tied with fellow rookie Zach Wilson of the New York Jets. Lawrence threw just 17 interceptions in three seasons at Clemson while winning 34 of 36 games as a starter. He threw three interceptions during his NFL debut against the Houston Texans and followed up with two apiece against the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals. Jacksonville lost that game to Arizona 31-19 last Sunday and have failed to cover the spread in all three games. The Jags will enter this contest as 7.5-point underdogs to a Cincinnati team who is coming off a rare road win at the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-10. Burrow completed 14-of-18 passes for 172 yards with three touchdowns and one pick in the win.

Cincinnati beat visiting Jacksonville 33-25 in Week 4 last year when Lawrence was still at Clemson. Burrow threw for 300 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Joe Mixon rushed for 151 yards, two touchdowns and also caught a TD pass.

Urban Meyer came out of coaching retirement to take the Jaguars job this year and it has not started well. Jacksonville has now lost 18 games in a row and all three losses this year are by double digits. Lawrence is the fifth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw multiple interceptions in each of his first three games, joining Blake Bortles (2014), Peyton Manning (1998), Troy Aikman (1989) and Jim Zorn (1976). Lawrence owns the poorest completion percentage in the NFL (54%) among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 40 passes. He has 669 passing yards and five touchdowns to go along with those seven picks. Jacksonville made a trade this week in sending 2020 first-round cornerback CJ Henderson to Carolina for tight end Dan Arnold and a draft pick. Running back James Robinson ran for 88 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries last week vs. Arizona. Jacksonville’s defense is ranked 28th in opponents’ scoring (30.3 points per game) and 29th in total defense (418.0 yards per game).

Two of Burrow’s three touchdown passes last week went to rookie No. 5 overall pick Ja’Marr Chase, who is an early Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate with four TD catches so far. Chase is one of four players in the league with at least one TD catch in all three games this season. Fellow wideout Tee Higgins missed the Steelers game with a shoulder injury and is in doubt for Thursday. Cornerback Trae Waynes, a big-ticket free-agent addition, has been out with a hamstring injury but could play Thursday. Offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Xavier Su’a-Filo are questionable. Cincinnati’s defense has 10 sacks already this year after getting to Ben Roethlisberger four times last Sunday. The Bengals are 4-1 against the spread in their last five Thursday games.

This is a lot of points here, but this Jacksonville team is just awful. Everyone knows it. If they were getting 7.5 points at home, I would take it. But this is a road game against a vastly improved Cincinnati team with the better quarterback. I’ll lay the points.

Pick: Bengals -7.5
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