Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: 6 Matchups to Watch

Tom BrewerCorrespondent IIOctober 5, 2011

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: 6 Matchups to Watch

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    After a fourth-quarter win over the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals will be riding high as they head south to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5 of the NFL season. As with many NFL games, this contest will be settled by the match-ups—the games within the game, the battles within the war.

    Here are some match-ups to watch as the Bengals look to improve to 3-2 on the season and Jacksonville rookie Blaine Gabbert strives for his first NFL win as a starting quarterback.

Jaguars DE Austen Lane V. Bengals OT Andrew Whitworth

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    Jacksonville’s defensive front is lackluster, but Lane leads them with 10 tackles and one sack. Whitworth has a 60-pound size advantage over Lane, but if Lane can speed past Whitworth, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton may be in for a long afternoon.

    Look for Jacksonville to move Lane to left defensive end in passing situations to see how he fares against Bengals right offensive tackle Andre Smith.

Jaguars OT Eugene Monroe V. Bengals DE Michael Johnson

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    This match-up is interesting because Monroe and Johnson have similar stories. Both players were drafted from ACC schools in 2009—Monroe from Virginia and Johnson from Georgia Tech. Both made immediate impacts for their respective teams—Monroe started in 13 games in his rookie campaign—and while Johnson did not make a start his rookie year, he racked up 17 tackles and three sacks. Monroe is the most consistent offensive lineman for the Jaguars; Johnson leads the Bengals defensive line with 14 tackles, one-and-a-half sacks and an interception.

    If Monroe gets the best of this match-up, Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert will be more comfortable in the pocket than the Bengals want him to be. If Johnson bests Monroe, Gabbert will be forced to make quicker decisions and will be more apt to make mistakes.

Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew V. Bengals Linebackers

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    The 2011 Jacksonville Jaguars are an offensive anomaly. They rank 32nd in the NFL in scoring (9.8 points per game) and 31st in total yards with just 264.2 per game. Despite this ineptitude, they rank sixth in rushing yards, averaging nearly 127 yards per game on the ground. The Bengals enter Sunday’s game with the league’s top defense, allowing just 275.5 yards per game, and their aggressive linebackers are an important piece of the D.

    However, sometimes Bengals linebackers just plain forget how to tackle.

    The last time the Bengals faced a power runner was in a loss against Denver. In that game, Broncos running back Willis McGahee ran the ball 28 times for 101 yards and one touchdown. McGahee had no trouble picking up critical first downs, particularly in the first half.

    The Bengals will face a more talented back with a similar style to McGahee when they meet Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew possesses a rare combination of power and speed and is rushing for 5.1 yards per carry this season.

    The Bengals' linebacking corps will have to play fundamental football and gang tackle MJD if they are to beat Jacksonville on Sunday. If they try to arm tackle him, expect the Jaguars to shorten the game with the running attack.

Jaguars DB Rashean Mathis V. Bengals WR A.J. Green

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    In this match-up, we have a wily veteran against a talented newcomer. In this classic case of experience versus exuberance, Mathis, a nine-year pro, is likely to match up with the rookie Green no matter where he lines up on the field. Mathis has the chops to keep up with Green, as the career Jaguar is a former Pro Bowler and All-Pro.

    This match-up will be most interesting in the second half of the game when Mathis’ numbers decline and Green’s skyrocket.

    Of Mathis' 21 tackles so far in 2011, only four have come in the second half, and he has zero passes defended in the second half of any game. Conversely, Green turns on the jets in the third and fourth quarters. The Bengals dynamic wide out snagged twelve of his 19 receptions in the second halves of the first four games this season. Five of those receptions have been for 20 yards or more, and both of his touchdowns have come in the second halves of games.

    Mathis may be able to keep up with the fleet-footed Green for the first 30 minutes of Sunday’s game, but look for Green to finish strong against the Jaguars. Jacksonville will have to neutralize Green’s big-play ability with safety help if they wish to keep him out of the end zone.

Jaguars LB Paul Posluszny V. Bengals RB Cedric Benson

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    In his fifth year out of Penn State, Paul Posluszny is an absolute beast in the middle of the Jacksonville defense. Posluszny has 40 tackles in 2011, including a 13 tackle performance in Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints.

    Cedric Benson has been a reliable running back for Cincinnati since he joined the team. He is coming off a 104-yard performance against the Bills and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season.

    Jacksonville’s defense will be fed a steady diet of Cedric Benson on Sunday. Benson is averaging just over 19 carries a game, and the Bengals want to control the line of scrimmage and the game clock with a brutal ground attack. To do that, they will have to run away from or through Posluszny, the leading tackler on the Jaguars’ roster. Jacksonville’s defense would rather stop the run and take their chances against Andy Dalton than let the Bengals punish them with Cedric Benson.

    This match-up may be the most definitive in determining the outcome, as the Bengals are 11-1 when Benson rushes for over 100 yards.

Jacksonville QB Blaine Gabbert V. Bengals QB Andy Dalton

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    OK, you got me. This is not a match-up like the others.

    This is a head-to-head comparison of two quarterbacks who will not be on the field at the same time. However, both Dalton and Gabbert are starting as rookies on rebuilding teams. They will likely be compared on television heading into and during Sunday’s game, and each player’s performance may very well determine the outcome.

    Besides, I couldn’t help myself.

    In his first three NFL games—two of which were starts—Blaine Gabbert has two touchdowns and two interceptions. He has completed only 47.8 percent of his passes and been sacked six times. The Jaguars have scored no more than 10 points in any of his starts, and he is winless as a starter.

    Andy Dalton has started all four games for the Bengals this season. He has thrown four touchdowns and four picks and led Cincinnati to come-from-behind victories, most recently against the Buffalo Bills. The team has scored over 20 points in three of Dalton’s starts, and he has taken five sacks.

    In all fairness, Andy Dalton’s receivers are much better than Blaine Gabbert’s. Mike Thomas, the Jaguars top receiver, has similar numbers to A.J. Green (20 catches for 212 yards and one touchdown), but not near the ability. Beyond Thomas, Gabbert’s options are marginal at best. Jacksonville’s second leading receiver is Jason Hill, who has just seven receptions and under 100 receiving yards in 2011. The third leading receiver isn’t a receiver; it is running back Maurice Jones-Drew. That should tell you all you need to know about the Jaguars’ passing attack.

    Dalton, on the other hand, has weapons. Besides Green, he can go to tight end Jermaine Gresham, who has 16 receptions, 187 yards and two touchdowns so far in 2011. Dalton could also go to Jerome Simpson, who has snagged a steady 12 receptions for over 200 yards this season, or Andre Caldwell who has eleven receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown in 2011. As far as passing weapons go, advantage Dalton.

    The biggest difference between Blaine Gabbert and Andy Dalton is the ever-subjective eyeball test. While Dalton looks like a man in charge of his offense, Gabbert looks like a rookie trying to adjust to the speed of the NFL. Sure, Dalton makes his fair share of mistakes including numerous first-half overthrows against Buffalo, but his ability to respond to adversity and lead the team is miles ahead of Blaine Gabbert.

The Wrap-Up & Elevated Expectations

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    From the big guys in the trenches to the superstars outside the hash marks to two rookie quarterbacks looking to make an impact, these are the match-ups that will decide Sunday’s game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Perhaps the most interesting match-up to watch Sunday will be the Bengals versus expectations. After defeating the previously unbeaten Buffalo Bills in Week 4 of the NFL, Cincinnati finds itself in the unfamiliar role of favorite heading into the game against Jacksonville.

    We will see if elevated expectations have any affect on the Bengals' play.