Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1 SU, 1-1-1 ATS) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2 SU, 2-1 ATS)
NFL Week 4
Date/Time: Sunday, September 30th, 2012, 4:05 p.m. EST
Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
TV: CBS/DirecTV 712
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: Cin -2/Jax +2
Over/Under Total: 43

A couple of teams led by second-year quarterbacks are set to duel in NFL
week four action Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals and
Andy Dalton travel to EverBank Field to take on the Jacksonville
Jaguars
and Blaine Gabbert in a late afternoon contest on CBS.

Dalton, who led the Bengals to a playoff birth last year as a rookie, has picked up right where he left off as Cincinnati has now won two in a row following last week’s, 38-31, victory over the Washington Redskins in D.C. The second-year QB from TCU threw for 328 yards and three scores as the Bengals scored the first 14 points of the fourth quarter to pull away from the Skins for the win.

Gabbert hasn’t enjoyed the same amount of success that Dalton has so far in the NFL, but he does seem to be getting better in his second go-around in the league. It was an 80-yard scoring strike from Gabbert to Cecil Shorts with 45 second remaining in the game that propelled the Jaguars to their first win of the season last Sunday, a 22-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts on the road in Indy.

Now these two will go head-to-head for the second straight year in EverBank Field on Sunday, in what many are expecting to be a tight contest in the Florida sunshine.

You can count the oddsmakers in Las Vegas among the many that expect this game to be a tight one, since they set the opening point spread with the Bengals as slim 1-point favorites on the road. However, the betting public seems to think the Bengals will have an easier time on Sunday, because after two days of the number being up on the board the money has poured in on Cincinnati enough to move the line up to minus -2 or even -2.5 in favor of the visiting Bengals. There are even a few offshore sportsbooks that have gone up to minus -3, so right now the Jaguars are starting to look like a big home underdog come Sunday.

The over/under total opened at 43 and for the most part has yet to move in either direction, although there are a lot of books and properties in Vegas that have dropped the number by the hook to 42.5 in order to take the push out of play on Sunday.

Typically you would think that teams with young, growing QBs would have some issues with consistency on offense, but in this case it’s just the Jaguars that have struggled to get their offense established this season.

In fact, after three weeks the Bengals are in the top-10 in the league in a large majority of offensive categories including passing yards per game (291 ypg - 4th), total yards per game (392 ypg - 8th) and points per game (28 ppg - 8th). Dalton has taken to coordinator Jay Gruden’s scheme real well, and with A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins and TE Jermaine Gresham on the perimeter he has plenty of weapons to throw to in the passing game.

Jacksonville and Gabbert have shown the inconsistency you’d expect form a young team, but with the exception of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars are not as talented and dangerous on the outside. As a result, Jones-Drew and the Jags running game is carrying the load (121 ypg - 10th), but Gabbert hasn’t been able to take advantage in play action and the Jags passing game (150 ypg -30th) and scoring output (17 ppg - 30th) have suffered. Jacksonville will likely be without Laurent Robinson this week too (concussion -doubtful), so the Jags will be without it’s best deep threat on Sunday.

The good news for both offenses is that neither team seems to want to play much defense in the early going this season. The Bengals have fallen completely apart and are 30th in the league allowing 34 points per game and 29th in yards allowed (417 ypg). Jones-Drew will get a steady diet of the ball on Sunday, especially since the Bengals are giving up over 155 yards a game on the ground (31st).

But Cincinnati should be able to match them yard for yard since the Jaguars defense isn’t much better, giving up 412 yards game (28th) and 154 yards per game on the ground (30th). The only thing that has saved the Jags from complete collapse is that the bend but don’t break, since they are giving up only 23 points per game (17th) by holding opponents to field goals when they get in the red zone.

As I mentioned, they did meet last season in the same venue in early October, a game the Bengals won by a 30-20 score as eerily similar 1-point favorites. Neither QB was spectacular, and the game was closer than the score indicates because the Bengals ran back a fumble for the final score as time expired to turn a 3-point win into a 10-point win in a blink.

However, historically the Jaguars have enjoyed their series with the Bengals to the tune of a 7-3 SU record on the scoreboard. The teams have played a little more even as far as bettors and point spread are concerned, with the Jags holding a slight 5-4-1 ATS record over the years dating back to the 1999 season.

A look at the betting trends shows that the Bengals have struggled on the road of late (1-3-2 ATS in L6), especially against teams in the AFC (0-7-2 ATS in their L9 vs. AFC). Despite a crappy record on the field, Jacksonville has cashed at the window for bettors to the tune of 4-1 ATS in the last five overall.

The over/under trends are mixed, with the over looking solid when you look at the Bengals (14-3 in L17 vs. AFC; 8-3 in L11 road games), and it’s also gone 2-0-2 the last four times they’ve gone head-to-head. But the under also has some solid trends too, with it going 9-1-1 in the Jaguars last 11 games versus an AFC opponent and the under going 11-2 in the Bengals last 13 games after scoring more than 30 points the week before.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: There’s a lot to like about this young Bengals team. They keyword there though is young, a word that leads to inconsistency, especially on the road. I fully expect Cinci to get a fat dosage of MJD on Sunday and lose. There’s going to be a ton of happy bookies on Sunday as the world is backing Cinci, not me though. Take the Jags to win this game straight up and we’ll be seeing eachother at the cashiers cage after the game.

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