HEADLINE

Surging Jaguars, skidding Bengals take stage on Monday night

Field Level Media

December 01, 2023 at 12:38 am.

It’ll be a battle of coaching brothers when the Jacksonville Jaguars host a rare Monday night game against the slumping Cincinnati Bengals.

Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor brings his Bengals (5-6) into Jacksonville having lost three straight and falling into the cellar of the AFC North after winning the division the last two seasons.

Jacksonville (8-3) is coached by Doug Pederson, and Taylor’s younger brother Press serves as the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator of unit that has star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

“He’s somebody I’m very proud of,” Zac Taylor said of Press. “I’ve watched his journey. He’s earned everything he’s ever gotten. He’s worked really hard for it. He’s really smart and takes care of people.”

The Jaguars are playing their first Monday night game since Dec. 5, 2011, a 38-14 home loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Jaguars played two Monday night games that season, beating the visiting Baltimore Ravens 12-7 for a split.

The Jaguars are 8-7 all-time on Monday night.

Jacksonville has won seven of its last eight games and sits atop the AFC South. The Jags have the NFL’s fourth-ranked run defense (87.4 yards allowed per game), while Lawrence leads the offense and is coming off a 364-yard passing performance in their 24-21 win at Houston.

“What I’ve been most impressed with was how he’s just leading the football team,” Pederson said of Lawrence. “He has been taking care of the football the last couple of weeks.

“Honestly, there’s still some room if you watch the film to grow and improve and really anticipate certain things,” Pederson added. “He’s just continuing to make impressive throws and he continues to grow.”

The Bengals are trying to snap a long dubious streak of their own. With their loss in Baltimore on Nov. 16, they have dropped 15 straight prime-time games on the road and have lost 26 of 27 night road games.

The Bengals have dropped nine straight Monday night road games, including last season’s 32-13 decision in Cleveland on Oct. 31, 2022. Their last win in this category was on Oct. 22, 1990, in Cleveland. The Bengals are 13-26 all-time on Monday night, with a 19-16 home victory against the LA Rams in Week 3.

The Bengals turn to Jake Browning, who is making his second career NFL start after replacing Joe Burrow in Cincinnati’s 34-20 loss at Baltimore on Nov. 16.

In his first career start last Sunday against the Steelers in Cincinnati, Browning completed 19 of 26 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown and a costly third-quarter interception. The Bengals held a 7-3 lead at the half and were driving for another score to open the third quarter when his pass for Ja’Marr Chase was intercepted.

“I thought he handled some things really well for us,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “It’s a tough task to play a divisional game versus a good defense in your first game. There’s going to be plenty of things he can learn from.”

Browning had to make his first start last week without Tee Higgins, who missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury. Higgins returned to practice in a limited capacity on Thursday and is hopeful to start alongside fellow star receiver Chase on Monday night.

“Tee’s one of the top receivers in the NFL,” said Browning, who was a full participant Thursday despite being listed for a right wrist issue. “I don’t think can really put into words how important he is to this offense.

“I think Andrei (Iosivas) has continued to play really well. Trenton Irwin has proven he can do it, but there’s just something that Tee brings the table being as big, as fast and having the experience he does, where it’s always nice to have him and Ja’Marr on the outside.”