NFL Week 9: Bengals vs Jaguars is another playoff test

JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 28: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals and Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars shake hands after the preseason game at EverBank Field on August 28, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 28: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals and Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars shake hands after the preseason game at EverBank Field on August 28, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) /

The Bengals will take on the Jaguars in a pivotal matchup at EverBank Field. Week 9 will showcase another matchup with playoff implications.

The Bengals’ quest for a postseason invitation starts Sunday in Jacksonville. Why is the journey being started so late? For two straight seasons, the Bengals have come out lazy and uninspired. An 0-3 start put them in the hole for the current year, while a 1-2 record was the earmark for 2016.

Just like the prior campaign, they’ll have to fight and claw their way into the playoffs. There are other AFC teams that are in the hunt besides Cincinnati. So, nothing is guaranteed. But, at least for the moment, it’s an outside chance.

Without sugar-coating the situation, it’s another must-win game for the Bengals. It’s going to be a test for both the defense and the offense to get it right. This will be one of those games that will determine how badly they want to advance in January.

That awful showing against the Steelers has left a foul taste with many fans. Once again, the Bengals’ came out flat against a team that will definitely be a roadblock to the playoffs. If you’re wondering what the problem is, stop slamming your head into a wall. It’s obvious. But, we won’t go there. It’s a problem that’s easily solved. Yet, for some inexplicable reason (money…power), it never gets addressed. 

Sliding Into The AFC South 

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Yes, it’s just as bad as you think it is. I have the daunting task of making sure things are accurately portrayed with this Bengals squad. Of course, that has to come from a “fan” viewpoint. To be honest, the Bengals are walking into a hornets’ nest after hitting it with a stick. And what was the stick they used? Simple. The Week 8 struggle with the Indianapolis Colts. Obviously, the Jaguars coaches looked at the film of that titanic struggle and started salivating. The Colts were able to stay in the fight until the bitter end.

Looking back at the Week 7 beating the Jags administered to the Colts, there was no reason the Bengals should have struggled with Indy. Instead, fans were treated to a lackluster offensive performance which bordered on the brink of, “Yo, what is this??”

Andy Dalton had a productive day, despite the putrid play of the O-line. But, the same performance against the Jaguars will get Dalton injured or out for the season. Honestly speaking, AJ McCarron should have gotten more than a few snaps with the first team. Sacksonville will be coming for any QB standing behind that Swiss cheese line of the Bengals.

Why Is It A Test?

If you asked yourself that question, you haven’t been watching the Bengals for much of the season. This Week 9 contest can be compared to the Steelers situation. Beating the Colts left a warm, fuzzy feeling with most fans. But, the real, diehard faithful understand the truth. The Bengals shouldn’t have had a hard time with a team they’re supposed to beat. That’s the hallmark of a playoff-caliber unit.

Going into the crazy confines of EverBank Field makes the job even harder. Jacksonville has had a Bye Week to rest and get their players ready for the Bengals.

Yes, it’s true and the results could be horrific. Leonard Fournette will be back from an ankle injury and he’ll be licking his chops for a taste of the Bengals’ run D. And there’s your second reason. The Bengals are ranked No. 11 against the run. Fournette is averaging 99.3 yards per game. That’s close to what the Bengals are yielding. If Blake Bortles finds a groove against the defense, it could be a long day for Cincinnati.

Speaking of Bortles, here’s a little tidbit from linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

"“We’re not going to let the run game beat us,” Burfict said, per The Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’re going to at least let Blake throw the ball. … I think the film tells for itself that obviously Fournette can beat you and I’m not sure Blake can beat us. We want to put it in his hands and have him beat us, if he can.”"

Don’t cha just love that bulletin board material? Well. it’s more like iPhone material today.

This Can Be Done

The Jaguars aren’t rolling over teams at home (1-2). Both losses were blowouts with a combined score of 64-33. Additionally, Jacksonville is allowing 138.6 yards per contest to running backs. Yet another sign for the Bengals to get the offensive line in shape. Joe Mixon & Co. could have a field-day with a little help from the boys up front.

Next: And McCarron Is Still In Stripes

Moreover, this is a wakeup call for Bill Lazor. Find a way to exploit the Jaguars run D and give Andy Dalton some needed time to drop back and pass.

On Sunday, it all boils down to who wants it more.