5. Joe Mixon
This will be a game where I anticipate that Mixon sees a heavy amount of carries and touches against a Jaguars’ front seven that has been struggling so far this season in stopping the run. Expect the Bengals to set the tone early by giving Joe the ball around the edges and through the gaps upfront.
The Jaguars allowed well over 100 rushing yards against the Texans in Week 1 and have allowed right near 100 yards in each of the last two weeks. It is safe to say, that their run defense is still more competent than their pass defense which could be a reason to attack them more through the air. But Mixon will see his fair share of touches throughout this game.
Joe Mixon is currently 2nd among all running backs in the NFL in rushing yards behind only Derrick Henry. The Bengals will likely increase rookie Chris Evans touches with Higgins out as they have slowly done over the last few games, but I still see Mixon touching the ball 25-30 times on the ground alone.
4. Trey Hendrickson
The Bengals front seven has been one of the best in the entire league so far through three weeks, and Hendrickson has been one of the leading catalysts of that.
He has done a great job securing the edge and goes against Jacksonville’s struggling offensive line. Expect Hendrickson to have opportunities to get into the backfield and make an impact.
Hendrickson had 13.5 sacks last season, and so far this year, he already has 2.5. Expect the Jags to have a scheme to protecting Lawerence in this one to limit the times he gets pressured and give him more time in the pocket, but if anyone on the defensive line is going to make an impact around that, Hendrickson would be a good bet.
3. Trae Waynes
Trevor Lawerence currently leads the league in interceptions with seven, and the Jaguars have thrown 51 times in Week 1 and then 30+ times in Week 2 and 3, so don’t expect them to let up too much throwing through the air. Waynes making his debut with the Cincinnati Bengals will be a crucial cornerback for the secondary, especially with injuries to Bates and Philips, even if they do play.
Wayne’s will be key to guarding their best receiver, which will probably be D.J. Chark or Marvin Jones Jr, who both get targeted a lot by Lawerence. Takeaways will be significant in this game, and against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati had two and almost had a 3rd after Bell forced a fumble, but the defense and offense fed off of those turnovers, resulting in a 24-10 win and a stout performance on both sides of the ball.
Creating turnovers sets the tone, and I think this is a game where it being Waynes’ first start, he will see a lot of balls thrown in his direction, which will give him opportunities to make plays for the defense.
2. Ja’Marr Chase
With Tee Higgins out in this game, it’s an opportunity for Tyler Boyd and Ja’Marr Chase to see increased targets and have more of a chance to have big games. Chase hauled in 2 touchdowns against the Steelers and took the top off the defense just like he did against Minneosta and Chicago. Chase was the offensive rookie of the month for September and could be in line for his 2nd rookie of the week award already.
Considering the Jaguars’ secondary is worse than the Steelers, Chase shouldn’t have many struggles finding his spots. He is expected to be covered by Shaquill Griffin which may be a tough task because Griffin is a highly talented corner, but it’s nothing Chase hasn’t seen before after being covered by Joe Haden and at times Minkah Fitzpatrick last week and then Patrick Peterson and Jaylon Johnson in Week’s one and two.
Chase is breaking rookie records each week and is tied for 2nd currently in touchdown receptions and has a chance to surpass Cooper Kupp for 1st on Thursday night if he can find the end zone twice. I’d expect Burrow to look his way a bunch in this game and the same with Tyler Boyd.
1. Brandon Wilson
Brandon Wilson may have the most demanding task to fill all night. With Jessie Bates being ruled out, Wilson is the expected starter to step into his safety role alongside Vonn Bell. Trying to make up Bates’s impact on the Bengals is like asking Wilson just to flat out be the best player on that side of the ball.
That is not expected, but if Wilson can keep the coverage in front of him, make open-field tackles, play smart and clean football and know his assignments, he should be just fine back there playing a lot of snaps. Wilson has had success before in the secondary for the Bengals, and I’m not opposed to thinking he can do it again.
It will be interesting to see if the Bengals still have him return kickoffs in this game and the same goes for Darius Phillips on punt returns considering Phillips will more than likely have an expanded role on the defense this Thursday as well with Chidobe Awuzie doubtful.
Seeing how the Jaguars decide to attack the defense after knowing Bates and Awuzie won’t be on the field. The pass rush for Cincinnati is going to have to lead the way in this one.