BEN­GALS (3-4) VS. JAGUARS (4-3)


USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - LEADING OFF - Zac Jack­son

An­nounc­ers: An­drew Cat­alon, James Lofton

About the Ben­gals: DE Car­los Dun­lap was the hero last week, pro­vid­ing the gamewin­ning in­ter­cep­tion re­turn as the Ben­gals over­came a lack­lus­ter ef­fort to de­feat the Colts. WR A.J. Green usu­ally has been the of­fen­sive hero, and op­pos­ing de­fenses have be­gun to ad­just ac­cord­ingly. The re­made of­fen­sive line hasn’t been good enough, and that’s po­ten­tially bad news against this Jaguars de­fense. Rookie RB Joe Mixon has asked pub­licly for more touches, and he made some big plays last week. The Ben­gals would like Mixon and rookie WR John Ross, just back from in­jury, to take a leap and help QB Andy

Dal­ton’s ef­forts. The de­fense is good enough, and af­ter an 0-3 start the Ben­gals feel good about where they’re headed de­spite some strug­gles last week.

About the Jaguars: Rookie RB Leonard Four­nette is the headliner for a team that has been bet­ter than any­one out­side the Jaguars’ locker room thought it would be. QB Blake

Bor­tles has been shaky, but the of­fense runs through Four­nette and the de­fense is on pace to break all sorts of fran­chise records and possibly lead the league in sacks. DE Calais

Camp­bell, a smart but ex­pen­sive free agent pickup last March, al­ready has 10 sacks. The Jaguars ranked in the top 10 in scor­ing en­ter­ing their bye week­end — and no, that’s not a mis­print. The de­fen­sive touch­downs have helped, but the Jaguars have been a streaky team that has thrived on big plays, quar­ter­back pres­sure and Four­nette serv­ing as the closer. The of­fense needs to con­tinue to grow and the de­fense has to stay healthy.

Matchup to watch: Ben­gals OT An­dre

Smith vs. Camp­bell. The Ben­gals brought back Smith think­ing he could play guard and lend ex­pe­ri­ence to their young line. But the young tack­les have ei­ther failed or failed to earn the trust of their coaches and their quar­ter­back, and Smith has had to play left tackle. Camp­bell’s lead­er­ship and savvy have helped the Jaguars tremen­dously, but he still is quick off the ball, too.

Player to watch: Jaguars LB Telvin Smith. The lead­ing tack­ler for the NFL’s top scor­ing de­fense re­cently signed a megabucks ex­ten­sion. Some teams saw Smith as too small to with­stand the rig­ors of the NFL game, but he’s us­ing his speed and in­stincts to cre­ate game-chang­ing plays and con­trib­ute in a va­ri­ety of ways. Num­ber crunch­ing: 21. All four of the Jaguars’ wins have come by mar­gins of 21 or more points. While it re­mains to be seen if this team is an ac­tual con­tender, the Jaguars have proved ca­pa­ble of over­pow­er­ing op­po­nents. KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Pro­tect the QB: The Ben­gals know what to ex­pect from the Jaguars, and they know Dal­ton can’t suc­ceed when he’s run­ning for his life or al­ready on his back. The of­fen­sive line sim­ply has to im­prove.

2. Fresh legs: Four­nette should be back in the lineup af­ter be­ing forced to sit out one game be­fore the bye week. The team be­lieved hold­ing him out would let his an­kle heal and the rest would make him fresher.

3. Straight ahead: For as good as the Jaguars’ de­fense has been, it has been vul­ner­a­ble against the run. The Ben­gals need a big day from Mixon to keep the chains mov­ing and set up some long passes.

4. Mix it up: Ev­ery­one in the sta­dium knows that Four­nette makes the Jaguars go. Es­pe­cially with an ex­tra week to prep, look for the Jags to try some play-ac­tion pass­ing and prob­a­bly even some trick­ery to try to get some early points and early con­fi­dence for Bor­tles.


Jaguars’ Telvin Smith

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