Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Line: Cincinnati -7.5
Where: Paul Brown Stadium
When: Thursday, 9/30 at 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Cincinnati is going to be in an unfamiliar position tonight.
The Bengals have not been favored by more than a touchdown since 2017, but they are currently 7.5-point favorites against Jacksonville. Oddsmakers opened Cincinnati as a 6.5-point favorite, but the early betting action has pushed the line through a key number. Thursday’s total opened at 47.5 and has been bet down to 46 points.
Both teams entered the season with Vegas win totals of 6.5, but that is just about the only thing they have in common after three weeks of the regular season. Jacksonville has lost all three of its games by double-digit margins and is now on an 18-game losing streak dating back to last year.
Cincinnati, which was an underdog in its first three games, has pulled off a pair of upsets en route to a 2-1 start. The Bengals are coming off their most impressive performance of the young season, picking up a 24-10 win at Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase became the ninth receiver in NFL history to catch a touchdown in his first three career games. He had a pair of scores against the Steelers in Week 3.
Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow has completed 70.7 percent of his attempts for 640 yards and seven touchdowns. He has thrown seven interceptions and been sacked 10 times, but the Bengals offensive line did not allow a sack against Pittsburgh. Jacksonville enters Thursday’s game with the worst turnover differential in the NFL (-8), so bettors should expect a clean game from Burrow.
Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon has rushed 67 times for 286 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Wide receiver Tee Higgins missed practice on Monday and Tuesday with a shoulder injury and is listed as ‘questionable.’
The Bengals have been strong defensively, ranked eighth in the NFL in yards allowed per game (317.0). They are facing a Jacksonville offense that is in the bottom third of the league, averaging 315.0 yards per game.
It looked like the Jaguars were ready to finally snap their long losing streak last week, taking a 19-10 lead in the third quarter against Arizona. Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw a pick-six and the team added two more turnovers in the fourth quarter, allowing the Cardinals to score 21 consecutive points.
Lawrence has struggled to acclimate to life in the NFL, completing just 54.2 percent of his passes for 669 yards. He comes into this game with a 5-to-7 TD-to-INT ratio. Running back James Robinson is averaging 5.2 yards on 31 carries, so Urban Meyer might try to get him more involved on Thursday.
Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. has 17 receptions for 194 yards, while D.J. Chark Jr. has caught seven passes for 154 yards. Their defense is allowing 418.0 yards per game, which ranks fourth worst in the NFL.
Jacksonville is now 1-6 against-the-spread in its last seven games, but it is 10-3-1 ATS in its last 14 games against an AFC North opponent. Cincinnati has covered in six of its last eight home games and is 4-2 ATS in its last six games overall.
The total has gone ‘under’ in seven of the Bengals last 10 games. Jacksonville has cashed the ‘under’ in five of its last seven games as an underdog.
The pick: Jacksonville +7.5
Cincinnati has gone from an underdog in its three games to laying more than a touchdown on Thursday night. The Bengals are coming off one of their biggest wins in recent memory, going to Pittsburgh and leaving with a win. They are also in a sandwich spot, as they play host to Green Bay in Week 5. Jacksonville should have covered last week, but late turnover issues led to a big swing. The Jaguars have been running the ball effectively, so I think a simplified gameplan should work just fine on Thursday. The betting public will be all over Cincinnati, but the value has shifted to Jacksonville after the line moved from -6.5 to -7.5.