NFL Odds & Preview — Winless Bengals Hope There’s a First Time For Everything

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Last year, Zac Taylor went to the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams. Well, sometimes success on that level entitles an assistant coach to go through a lot of headaches with a “distressed property.”

And when you are 0-6, that is about as distressed as you can possibly get. Taylor will give it another try to get that elusive first win as a head coach as his Cincinnati Bengals play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars in an AFC game that will be getting underway at 1 PM ET at Paul Brown Stadium.

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The Bengals have put forth some honest efforts, and these include close losses to Seattle, Buffalo, Arizona and Baltimore. Are they getting closer to breaking through? Or are they too fundamentally challenged to do anything about it?

The Jaguars have beaten only Tennessee and Denver. And they made a major move this week, finally agreeing to Jalen Ramsey’s trade request by dealing him to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round picks and one fourth-rounder. In the weeks prior, he had been sitting out with a “back injury.” Since those are kind of tough to put a handle on, it could have been about as convenient as Ramsey wanted it to be. Was he a distraction who had to be removed? Or is there more uneasiness in the locker room?

In the NFL odds posted on this game, the Jags are laying points on the road:

Jacksonville Jaguars -4 (-105)
Cincinnati Bengals +4 (-105)

Over 43.5 points (-105)
Under 43.5 points (-105)

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You’d kind of like to give Cincinnati a chance, but there are a number of things that are working against them. For one thing, they still don’t run the ball very well, as they’re averaging 3.1 yards a pop as a team. And they’re giving up 5.3 ypc. So they are allowing 2.2 more yards on a per-carry basis than they have gained.

They’ve got a locomotive to deal with in Leonard Fournette, who’s at 5.1 ypc and averaging almost 100 yards per game. The Bengals are, by all accounts, a poor tackling team, although their “stuff rate” (the percentage of run plays in which they hold the opponent to zero or negative yards) is in the upper half of the NFL.

They haven’t gotten a lot of pressure on passers, and that is a huge potential concern, because they’re facing off against a quarterback who can make some of his own breaks by scrambling around. Gardner Minshew has thrown only two interceptions in 194 attempts, and that isn’t what you’d expect out of a rookie who was a sixth-round draft choice. Last week he didn’t produce much (14 of 29 for 163 yards and just eleven first downs in the 13-6 loss to the Saints), but we doubt Cincinnati will offer as much in the way of resistance as did New Orleans.

The Bengals will once again be without AJ Green, the All-Pro receiver. John Ross, who really emerged as a big play threat, is out until December. Tyler Boyd has performed admirably, with 40 catches. But tight end Tyler Eifert is averaging just 7.3 yards a catch. Jacksonville’s pass rush is awake, and Andy Dalton has suffered 22 sacks.

Having illustrated all these edges, we’d still be hesitant to lay this many on the road to Cincy. The Jags can run, but they have also been kind of porous against the run (allowing 5.2 ypc). And let’s face it – their secondary is not as good without Ramsey. Cincinnati has been in with some pretty hard-nosed teams already, and with losses of 1, 3, 4 and 6 points they are not exactly getting blown away every time out. Jacksonville’s defense has forced fewer turnovers than anybody, and it isn’t even close. The conditions might be right for a home team that has actually been trying hard. So we’re going to take the points.

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