Thursday Night Football Prediction and Picks: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Thursday Night Football matchup for Week 4 features the first overall picks from each of the last two seasons. How should we bet it? Ben Gretch takes a look.
Ben Gretch
Wed, September 29, 9:07 PM EDT

Thursday Night Football Prediction and Picks: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Start Time, Where To Watch, and Odds

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Key Stats

Cincinnati ranks 31st in situation-neutral pace (seconds per snap) and 30th overall. They have the lowest pass rate over expected, per Michael Leone of Establish the Run.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Preview

Jacksonville heads to Cincinnati for Thursday Night Football after a rough start to Trevor Lawrence’s career and Urban Meyer’s tenure as head coach. The Jaguars are 0-3, having averaged just 17.7 points per game. They’ve lost by double digits in each contest, including to the lowly Texans in Week 1.

But the Jaguars have definitely been willing to push things. They are sixth in the NFL in situation-neutral pace and average the quickest time to snap across all game situations. They’ve trailed, because they don’t boast a very good defense, and then they’ve been willing to play fast, which is why we have a 7.5-point spread to the Bengals and a reasonably high over/under of 46.

The Bengals are the more interesting side from a pace perspective, though. Cincinnati has played very slow, ranking 30th overall in time to snap and 31st in situation-neutral pace. They played close games in Weeks 1 and 2, each decided by three points, and they were slow and deliberate in both. Last week, they got out ahead of the Steelers, and were content essentially asking the Steelers to beat them -- the Bengals closed the game with three straight three-and-outs from the middle of the third quarter through to their final drive, which consisted of two kneel-downs. The Steelers wound up throwing 58 passes as Cincinnati consistently gave the ball back to them, but Pittsburgh couldn’t find any points.

Pace numbers are useful in considering how a game might play out, but whether a team plays fast or slow, offensive efficiency obviously matters, too. While Cincinnati has been extremely run-heavy — they have the lowest pass rate over expected in the entire league thus far — when they have decided to throw, they’ve made plays. Joe Burrow has multiple touchdown passes in each game, despite not throwing more than 30 passes in any. Rookie Ja’Marr Chase has been a sensation, scoring in each of his first three games, with four touchdowns overall.

The Bengals should be able to score on Jacksonville, at home, on a short week. The question will be if Lawrence and Meyer, a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach, can keep pace. It’s a tough spot with an early-season Thursday nighter, without much time to prepare, when your offense is already struggling. And if the Bengals get up, all signs early this season point to them playing deliberately, running the ball, and protecting Burrow as he continues to work his way back to 100%. I think Cincinnati dictates the pace in this one, and while Jacksonville will likely play fast to try to get back into it, I’m not sure they have enough juice to run up the score late. I like the under.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Pick

Ben Gretch
@YardsPerGretch
Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.
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