About 6,000 fans will be on hand for the Bengals second home game of the year against the Jacksonville Jaguars. While it might change the dynamic slightly off the field with fans in the stands, the Bengals know 100 percent of their focus this week is on the task ahead.
"We got to get a win," quarterback Joe Burrow said in his weekly news conference. "It's got to happen this week. We are going to practice our tails off to get that win on Sunday."
Week 4 against Jacksonville is another opportunity for Burrow and company to take steps forward and get win No. 1. There have been numerous positive signs early on including the emergence of wide receiver Tee Higgins, the solid play of defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson and the special teams once again ranking among the league's best.
There is no better time than the present to put it all together against a Jacksonville team that is 1-2 and has lost eight of their last 10 road contests.
Here are the three things to watch.
1. Third Down Looms Large - The team needs to be better on converting third downs. Cincinnati's offense ranks 26th in the NFL converting 37.8 percent of its attempts. Last week at Philadelphia, the offense went 3 for 13 (23 percent) with two of those coming on the second touchdown drive of the game.
Just how important is converting on third down? The last eight drives the Bengals have a third down conversion, they have come away with points. They scored 10 points at Philadelphia on the two drives they converted on third down and all six scoring drives at Cleveland in Week 2 had at least one third down conversion.
Conversely, Jacksonville ranks third in the NFL converting 52.9 percent of its third down opportunities. What has hurt the Jaguars offense has been racking up 22 penalties, the fourth most in the league.
2. Rookie of the Year Frontrunners - There is no doubt quarterback Joe Burrow has been as good as advertised. In his first three games, Burrow has accounted for six touchdown (five passing and one rushing) and his 91 competitions are an NFL rookie record. Nationally, he is the most well-known of the 2020 rookie class and performed to expectations early on.
What many might not know is one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 football season has undoubtedly been James Robinson, the Jaguars starting running back. He has three rushing touchdowns through three weeks, which is as many rushing scores as the Jaguars had in all of 2019. A dark horse candidate for the rookie of the year, Robinson ranks seventh in the NFL at 4.9 yards per carry and 11th with 210 rushing yards.
3. The Pass Rush – These are two teams with significantly different philosophies rushing the passer. The Bengals enter the game with five sacks on the season and blitz on 32.5 percent of drop backs, good for the 13th highest rate in the league. Two of those five sacks came last week at Philadelphia thanks to a breakout game from edge rusher Carl Lawson.
Jacksonville blitzes at the sixth-lowest rate in the league (20.2 percent), which is a big reason why the Jaguars only have three sacks. There is potential though for a breakout game with edge rusher Josh Allen (10.5 sacks in 2019) and Dawuane Smoot (six sacks in 2019) coming off the edge. It will be another tough challenge for the Bengals offensive line, which is still trying to find the right chemistry and balance with Burrow at quarterback.
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Tom McCarthy (play-by-play) and Jay Feely (analyst).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).