Money Monday

December 4, 2023

SuperBook Sports previews tonight’s showdown

© Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars

What once looked like a possible AFC Championship Game preview has taken an unfortunate detour. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is out for the season, and so too are Cincinnati’s Super Bowl hopes and likely their playoff hopes.

At 5-6, the Bengals have a lot of work to do and it doesn’t look like backup QB Jake Browning is going to be the guy to get that done. They managed just 10 points against Pittsburgh in a loss in his first start.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars are right there in the battle for the No. 1 seed, sitting with just three losses along with the Ravens, Chiefs and Dolphins. If the road to the big game goes through Jacksonville, they’ll need to keep stacking wins. And they’ve emerged victorious in seven of their last eight games, so it’s safe to say they’re hot.

A big spread awaits in a game that many see as a likely blowout. Let’s dive into how it shakes out…

Jaguars -9.5 (-110)

What to like about this line…

  • Jacksonville has three double-digit home wins this season, including beating the Titans by 20 points, the Colts by 17 points and the Falcons by 16 points. The Jaguars’ offense is capable of putting up big numbers, as Trevor Lawrence has a ton of weapons with guys like Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and Evan Engram. And even though running back Travis Etienne Jr. is listed as questionable, head coach Doug Pederson says he expects him to play.
  • The Bengals defense gave up 34 points to the Ravens in their last road game, so this one could get ugly. Lawrence threw for 364 yards last week at Houston, his season high, and the Jaguars appear to be clicking at just the right time.
  • There’s no sugarcoating how big of a loss Burrow is for the Bengals. He’s a top-five QB in the NFL and the wind has been totally sucked out of Cincinnati’s season. As mentioned, they scored just 10 points a week ago against the Steelers and Browning had a key interception in the red zone.
  • Joe Mixon ran for a pathetic 16 yards on eight carries, as it was easy for Pittsburgh to stack the box knowing Browning wasn’t much of a threat. Ja’Marr Chase had a respectable 81 yards receiving, but the next leading wideout in Trenton Irwin had only 25 yards on one catch. This just isn’t the same offense. And the Jacksonville defense has given up 21 or fewer points in six of their last eight games, as they’re proving to be one of the better units in the NFL. There’s a clear path here where Cincinnati scores 10 or fewer, maybe cracking the teens.

What not to like about this line…

  • The Jaguars already have three home losses this year, posting just a 2-3 mark at EverBank Stadium. Remember, they had two “home” games in London against the Falcons and Bills. And it’s strange, because a couple of those losses have been absolute blowouts. They got waxed by the Texans 37-17 in Florida and destroyed by the 49ers, 34-3. Maybe folks are spending a little too much time in the pool and not creating a true homefield advantage.
  • The Bengals have won twice on the road, and both times by double digits. They took down the Cardinals by a score of 34-20 and the Niners by a final of 31-17. Then again, both those wins came with Burrow, but these guys do know how to play away from home which is something to keep in mind.
  • Wide receiver Tee Higgins is expected to play for the first time since Nov. 5 at the Bills, when he led the team in receiving with 110 yards. He doesn’t get as many headlines as Chase, but he’ll be a huge weapon for Browning now that his hamstring is feeling better. In theory, this Cincy offense should still be pretty darn good, and Higgins can certainly help that cause.
  • The Bengals currently sit at No. 11 in the AFC, so they have to start stacking wins quickly if they don’t want this season to slip away. If you want to go glass half full, they’re only a game back of the 6-5 Colts for the final playoff spot in the conference. The battle feels like an uphill one with Burrow watching from the sidelines, but you never know. It’s a lot of points for a team that is fighting for their postseason lives, something to keep tucked in the back of your mind.

Over / Under 39.0 (-110)

What to like about the over…

  • This is a shockingly low total for two teams that know how to find the end zone, but then again that’s the Burrow effect. The Jaguars have gone over this number in two straight games, scoring a combined 45 with the Texans and 48 with the Titans. In fact, they’ve gone north of 39 in five of their last seven games, including a big 55 points with the Saints and 57 with the Colts.
  • For the Bengals, they’ve reached this mark in four of their last five games including 54 with the Ravens, 57 with the Texans and 48 with the Niners. Ultimately, Vegas might be begging you to take the over with it set at just 39, but recent trends show it has a good chance of hitting. Maybe this isn’t one to overthink, and just take the free money when it’s staring you in the face.

What to like about the under…

  • Not to beat a dead horse, but without Burrow a week ago the Bengals managed to reach just 26 total points in their 16-10 loss to the Steelers. He’s easily worth about 10 points a game, if not more. It’s a little pointless to look at Cincinnati’s entire body of work, since all of it was with Burrow before last week.
  • For the Jaguars, they have played some low-scoring games, including a 20-10 battle of their own against Pittsburgh, a 23-7 win over the Falcons and a 17-9 loss to the Chiefs. They’re not incapable of hitting this under, especially if they just want to run clock with Etienne and rely on their defense to beat up on an inexperienced quarterback. There’s definitely a case to be made this could go under 39, especially if the Bengals can’t even reach double digits. 

Steve Quinne’s Pick: Jacksonville -9.5 (-110)

The coaches and players can say what they want, but if you gave the entire Cincy locker room a dose of truth serum, they’d let you know what the rest of the NFL knows: They’re cooked and the season is done. It stinks for a team that played in a Super Bowl two seasons ago and had aspirations of winning it this year, but such is life when the man at the most-important position in sports goes down. And you better believe the Jaguars remember their trip to Arrowhead Stadium in the playoffs a season ago very well, and they don’t want to go back. Getting Patrick Mahomes at home in the postseason could be a game-changer. With the No. 1 seed in their sights, Jacksonville will be all gas and no brakes on Monday night. Look for the Jaguars to cruise in a laugher by a final score of 34-10.