WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL
Dalton, a second-round pick in this past April’s draft, has completed 37-of-56 attempts (66.1 percent) for 413 yards, three touchdowns and a 105.7 passer rating in two road starts this year. He had two touchdowns last week (one passing, one rushing) and became the first Cincinnati rookie to pass and run for scores in a game since Jack Thompson in 1979. Running back Cedric Benson posted his 14th career game of over 100 rushing yards with the Bengals last week, and Cincinnati is 12-2 when he eclipses that mark. In his only previous meeting with the Jaguars, Benson rushed for 104 yards with a touchdown on 24 carries. Rookie Green, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 draft, leads AFC rookies in catches (19) and receiving yards (312), and posted his second career 100-yard game (118 yards) last week. He’s also tied for the NFL lead with three catches of 40-plus yards. Tight end Jermaine Gresham had a career-best 70 receiving yards last week and is averaging 15.1 yards per catch in his last two games, compiling eight catches for 121 yards over that stretch.
Linebacker Paul Posluszny leads Jacksonville defense with 30 tackles and registered his first sack of the season against the Saints in Week 4. Safety Dawan Landry posted his first interception as a Jaguar last week, while linebacker Daryl Smith also had a pick for Jacksonville in that loss. Up front, defensive end Austen Lane recorded his first career sack against New Orleans.
Cincinnati is 23rd in scoring (20.0 points per game), 20th in total yards (340.5 yards per game), 23rd in passing yards (225.2 ypg) and 12th in rushing yards (115.2 ypg). Defensively, Jacksonville is tied for 10th in points allowed (21.2 ppg), 12th in total defense (335.8 ypg), 14th against the pass (228.8 ypg) and 16th versus the run (107.0 ypg).
WHEN THE JAGUARS HAVE THE BALL
Rookie Gabbert has a 90-plus fourth-quarter passer rating in two of his three career games and threw for a career-best 196 yards last week, though he completed only 16-of-42 attempts. Since the start of last season, Jones-Drew has 80 or more rushing yards in eight of nine home games he’s participated in, and the All-Pro back is averaging 97.7 rushing yards per game this season (391 total). Wide receiver Mike Thomas has a reception of 30-plus yards in each of Jacksonville’s past two games, while tight end Marcedes Lewis needs just two touchdown catches to surpass Reggie Williams (18) for third-most in franchise history, behind only Jimmy Smith (67) and Keenan McCardell (30). With 2,305 career receiving yards, Lewis also needs only 18 more to pass Williams and move into fifth place in team history in that category. Fellow tight end Zach Miller registered the first touchdown catch of his career in last week’s loss.
Cincinnati’s top-ranked defense is led by tackle Geno Atkins, who has notched 2 1/2 sacks in his past three games. Safety Reggie Nelson, meanwhile spent three seasons (2007-09) with the Jaguars and was a former first-round pick of the team.
The Jaguars are dead last in the league in scoring (9.8 points per game), 31st in total offense (264.2 yards per game), last in passing yards (137.5 ypg) and sixth in rushing yardage (126.8 ypg). The Bengals are sixth in scoring defense (18.5 ppg), first in total yards allowed (275.5 ypg), third in pass defense (188.8 ypg) and seventh against the run (86.8 ypg).
KEYS TO THE GAME
Gabbert simply must improve his accuracy and down-the-field acumen if the Jaguars are to force the Bengals’ defense away from the line of scrimmage and open up space for Jones-Drew.
On the flip side, the Bengals’ Benson aims for a 15th 100-yard game as a Bengal against a Jacksonville team that’s been middle-of-the-pack of the league rankings against the run. Containing him should increase the Jaguars’ odds of coming away with a victory
Dalton threw for 332 yards in his last road trip, a Week 2 loss at Denver, and can take another step towards erasing Palmer’s memory with a few aerial connections to the equally young and impressive Green.
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