Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-2-1)
The Bengals haven’t done a lot of winning in the past couple years, finishing with the worst record in the league at 2-14 in 2019 and getting off to an 0-2-1 start in 2020, but they’ve generally been pretty competitive. Of their 14 losses last season, 8 of those came by 8 points or fewer, while their two losses this season have come by a combined 8 points. They finished last season 24th in first down rate differential at -3.47%, not great, but better than their league worst record suggested, and this year they should be better with the addition of quarterback Joe Burrow and the return of top receiver AJ Green and left tackle Jonah Williams from injuries that cost them all of 2019. So far, the Bengals have been decent in first down rate differential, despite their lack of a win, ranking 18th in the NFL in this early season with a -0.70% first down rate differential.
The Jaguars have exceeded expectations after being expected to be one of the worst teams in the league, but they still only rank 23rd in first down rate differential at -2.47% and their 30th ranked defense is the kind of unit that could land this team among the worst in the league overall when all is said and done if their offense can’t continue playing at a high level (9th in first down rate). I don’t have the Jaguars as the worst team in the league and quarterback Gardiner Minshew can lead them to a few wins this season that they shouldn’t have otherwise had, like Ryan Fitzpatrick did for the expected league worst Dolphins in 2019, but the Jaguars rank just 29th in my roster rankings, so the 21st ranked Bengals have a significant edge in that as well. Despite that, this line suggests these two teams are about even, favoring the Bengals by just 2.5 points at home.
My calculated line is Cincinnati -5.5, even with minimal homefield advantage this year, so we’re getting good line value with the Bengals in a game where they have to win by only a field goal at home to cover. Unfortunately, the Bengals are in a couple of bad spots. Not only are they likely to be tired after last week’s tie, a spot in which teams are 9-17 ATS over the past 30 seasons, but they also have a big look ahead game on deck, going to Baltimore to face the Ravens, a game in which they are 16.5 point underdogs on the early line. Teams are 40-74 ATS since 2016 before being underdogs of 10 points or more, as that tends to serve as a big upcoming distraction. I’m still taking the Bengals for pick ‘em purposes, but I wouldn’t recommend betting on them.
Cincinnati Bengals 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 16
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -2.5