Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season is already right here. By means of three video games, traits are beginning to type — for higher or for worse. This week’s version of “Thursday Night time Soccer” options two groups on reverse ends of the spectrum going through off in primetime.
The two-1 Cincinnati Bengals are surprisingly occupying first place within the AFC North, albeit by advantage of a tiebreaker. The Jacksonville Jaguars, in the meantime, are 0-3, have the league’s third-worst level differential, and are solely stored out of final place within the AFC South by advantage of, once more, a tiebreaker.
These two groups squaring off means we get a take a look at the newest two No. 1 general draft picks, as Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence take the sphere for his or her respective sides. Let’s break down the matchup.
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When the Jaguars have the ball
Woo boy is the City Meyer period off to a disgustingly unhealthy begin. The Jaguars rank twenty seventh in yards, twenty third in factors, and twenty ninth in offensive effectivity (per Soccer Outsiders’ DVOA). Their 5.1 yards-per-play common is a half-yard under the league common mark, and ranks twenty fourth within the NFL. Simply 17.1 p.c of their drives have resulted in a landing or area purpose, which ranks second-to-last forward of solely the decrepit Jets offense (11.4 p.c), and checks in far under the 38.3 p.c leaguewide mark. Their 25.7 p.c turnover price, in the meantime, is the worst in all of soccer.
The offensive line in entrance of Lawrence is struggling to carry up. He is been pressured on 32.3 p.c of his dropbacks, based on TruMedia, regardless of being blitzed at one of many lowest charges within the league (18.9 p.c). He is holding on to the ball and forcing throws downfield as a result of no person is getting open quickly sufficient after the snap to function the short recreation, and since the group is so typically behind the stick that it appears like he must make an enormous play at each alternative. Because of this, he has one of many league’s highest common depth of goal marks (9.32 air yards per try) but has turned his throws into first downs on the NFL’s lowest price (24.6 p.c).
The Cincinnati protection is coming off a recreation by which it held Ben Roethlisberger to simply 5.5 yards per try whereas choosing up 4 sacks and intercepting two of his passes. It is robust to discern how a lot of that efficiency is attributable to something the Bengals did and the way a lot of it’s attributable to Roethlisberger being utterly washed. It is notable that Kirk Cousins lit up the Bengals for 351 yards and two scores in Week 1, however it’s additionally notable that each Andy Dalton and Justin Fields largely struggled towards them in Week 2.
It is not a very imposing unit, personnel-wise, however it does a minimum of have the requisite cornerback depth to go up towards Jacksonville’s broad receiver trio of Marvin Jones, DJ Chark, and Laviska Shenault Jr.. Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple have gotten nearly all of the perimeter snaps to this point, although Trae Waynes could also be able to make his Bengals debut after lacking the primary 19 video games of his tenure on account of harm. He’d probably slide into Apple’s place within the lineup throughout from Awuzie, whereas Mike Hilton maintains his maintain on the slot nook function. Nonetheless, Awuzie is listed as uncertain for the sport, so it is potential Apple stays within the lineup in his place.
That’ll go away Awuzie and Waynes (or Apple) working largely towards Jones and Chark, whereas Hilton offers with Shenault. The Jags receivers ought to have the ability to win a few of these matchups, however that additionally might have been stated in regards to the matchups in every of their first few video games, and the passing recreation has struggled regardless.
The run blocking of the group up entrance has been higher than the move blocking, however the Jags have been down so typically and by a lot that they’ve totaled simply 50 speeding makes an attempt between James Robinson and Carlos Hyde by three weeks. The Jags appear to have determined that Robinson is solely a greater all-around again than Hyde, which, I imply, welcome to the occasion. Robinson brings versatility as a move catcher that would show beneficial towards the Cincy linebacker corps that does not have a lot in the best way of expertise.
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When the Bengals have the ball
The Bengals have to this point run a surprisingly conservative offense seemingly designed round conserving Joe Burrow from getting killed. They’d one of many league’s highest move charges over expectation whereas Burrow was wholesome final yr, and that has been reversed this season as they rank within the league’s backside 5.
Burrow threw solely 18 passes final week towards Pittsburgh, although he was notably not sacked — simply the third time in 13 profession begins that has been the case for the second-year QB. (The earlier two occasions had been towards the pass-rush-deficient Titans in Week 8 of final season and towards Washington in Week 11, when he left early on account of his season-ending ACL tear.) He’d been sacked 5 groups in every of the primary two video games this season, giving him a 14.7 p.c sack price that was greater than double what it was final season. That quantity is right down to a extra manageable however nonetheless fairly scary 11.8 p.c after the sack-free recreation every week in the past.
Burrow nonetheless has a really robust group of weapons round him, and that is the case no matter whether or not Tee Higgins can get again on the sphere for this recreation. (Replace: He was dominated out on Wednesday.) Rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase has overcome his preseason case of the dropsies to catch 11 passes for 220 yards and 4 touchdowns within the first three video games of his profession, and he is scored a minimum of as soon as in each recreation. Tyler Boyd is doing his typical work within the slot, and Auden Tate is among the NFL’s extra underrated No. 4 wideouts, able to filling in when one of many starters is out of the lineup. With Joe Mixon and rookie Chris Evans popping out of the backfield, Burrow additionally has stable checkdown choices out there to him.
The Jags have been thrown on by each opponent to this point, permitting Tyrod Taylor, Teddy Bridgewater, and Kyler Murray to scorch them to the tune of 75 of 101 for 907 yards, 4 touchdowns, and one interception. (Additionally they allowed 60 yards speeding and one other landing on the bottom.) They’ve been much better towards the run (3.4 yards per carry allowed), so if there have been ever a time for the Bengals to start placing extra on Burrow’s plate, this could seemingly be it. They could even have the ability to get away from the quick-game-only stuff as a result of Jacksonville has not gotten a lot in the best way of stress on opposing QBs, along with the problems they’ve had within the secondary.
Prediction: Bengals 27, Jaguars 17