The Jaguars are coming off of a week eight bye tied for the lead in the AFC South. At 4-3 the team has played well enough to have a winning record through the first half of the season, something the franchise has failed to do in every season for nearly a decade.
During their bye week the Jaguars made an addition that should make an already electric defense even better. The team traded a sixth round pick to the Bills in exchange for Marcell Dareus. Dareus, a two time Pro Bowler and former All-Pro defensive tackle, will immediately make the Jaguars more stout against the run and will also help their already dominant pass rush.
This was a move that showed the rest of the NFL that the Jaguars are serious about winning big in 2017. This is a team that isn't just trying to make the playoffs after a decade drought, but a team that wants to win in the playoffs - and truly compete for a Super Bowl.
Tom Coughlin and the rest of the Jaguars brass are serious about winning and going deep into the playoffs, now it's time for the Jaguars players to respond in kind.
Despite the impressive defensive numbers and the spectacular wins over Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Indy, and Houston this is a team that has a lot left to prove.
They haven't won a game at EverBank Field this year.
They haven't won two games in a row this year.
They haven't stopped the run in consecutive games this year.
The Jaguars have an opportunity to accomplish all three of those things this week against the Bengals, and thus send a message to the rest of the NFL and in particular their AFC South rivals that these Jaguars are for real.
This is an opportunity that the Jaguars must seize.
And the Bengals are ripe for the taking.
The Jaguars strength as a defense is getting after the passer and not allowing passes to be completed downfield. The Bengals struggle with both. Their offensive line is playing at an extremely low level after the offseason losses of LT Andrew Whitworth and RG Kevin Zeitler. The Bengals offensive line has allowed an average of over three sacks per game. The Jaguars could and should have another big day getting after the QB on Sunday.
The Bengals also struggle to run the ball. They're averaging under 80 yards per game on the ground as a team and don't have a running back that has shown any consistency. The Jaguar addition of Marcell Dareus should allow the Jaguars to stop the run and force teams to pass. Then it's feeding time.
As you may know, the Jaguars have been creating a ton of turnovers on defense in 2017. The Bengals have turned the ball over at least one time in every one of their games this year. The Jaguars should be able to get their hands on the ball in this one defensively.
On the other side of the ball the Bengals are pretty damn good against the pass, but they struggle to stop the run. They've given up an average over 110 yards per game on the ground - that plays right into the hands of what the Jaguars would like to do. POUND THE ROCK. Even if Leonard Fournette isn't fully healthy for this one, Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon should provide enough of a spark for the Jaguars to have a nice day on the ground.
The Bengals weaknesses play right into the Jaguars hands in this one.
Now, the Jaguars must do what they've failed to do all year. Stop the run, win two in a row, and win at home.
If the Jags can do that it'll send a message to rest of the league that this Jaguars team is here to stay and it will also allow the Jaguars to, at the very least, remain tied for the AFC South division lead.
Is this a must win for the Jaguars? Let us know in the comments below!
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