Monday Night Football DFS Breakdown: Jacksonville vs. Cincinnati

Monday Night Football DFS Breakdown: Jacksonville vs. Cincinnati

This article is part of our Showdown/Single Game DFS Breakdown series.

In any realistic sense the Bengals' season was cruelly ended when Joe Burrow's was, but the 5-6 Bengals remain a considerable obstacle for the still-competitive Jaguars, who at 8-3 are close to realizing their playoff and maybe even division title ambitions. Though the Jaguars defense carried them for most of the year, the Jacksonville offense has looked better the last two weeks, with wideout Calvin Ridley's surge in production clearly a necessary condition for the breakout of quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the same span. The Bengals might be toothless enough at this point that the Jaguars can call a vanilla game plan that doesn't reach too far into the bag of tricks. The over/under is a mere 39.5 points, with the home team Jags favored by 9.5.

QUARTERBACK

Jake Browning ($8800 DK, $13000 FD) could have been worse against Pittsburgh last week, and generally deserves credit for toughing out a difficult situation. Unfortunately, this matchup is likely more difficult yet, as the Jaguars defense has been one of the best in the league under the standout direction of coordinator Mike Caldwell. The return of Tee Higgins could be a bit of a game-changer, on the other hand, and it's possible that the Bengals throw more than expected if the Jaguars run defense shuts down the Bengals rushing production. As much as Browning carries a lot of concerning details, in this showdown slate he's worth some amount of consideration.

Trevor Lawrence ($10800 DK, $14500 FD) is of course the

In any realistic sense the Bengals' season was cruelly ended when Joe Burrow's was, but the 5-6 Bengals remain a considerable obstacle for the still-competitive Jaguars, who at 8-3 are close to realizing their playoff and maybe even division title ambitions. Though the Jaguars defense carried them for most of the year, the Jacksonville offense has looked better the last two weeks, with wideout Calvin Ridley's surge in production clearly a necessary condition for the breakout of quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the same span. The Bengals might be toothless enough at this point that the Jaguars can call a vanilla game plan that doesn't reach too far into the bag of tricks. The over/under is a mere 39.5 points, with the home team Jags favored by 9.5.

QUARTERBACK

Jake Browning ($8800 DK, $13000 FD) could have been worse against Pittsburgh last week, and generally deserves credit for toughing out a difficult situation. Unfortunately, this matchup is likely more difficult yet, as the Jaguars defense has been one of the best in the league under the standout direction of coordinator Mike Caldwell. The return of Tee Higgins could be a bit of a game-changer, on the other hand, and it's possible that the Bengals throw more than expected if the Jaguars run defense shuts down the Bengals rushing production. As much as Browning carries a lot of concerning details, in this showdown slate he's worth some amount of consideration.

Trevor Lawrence ($10800 DK, $14500 FD) is of course the much better quarterback and also has the much easier matchup. The Bengals are without one of their starting boundary corners, and the other is playing injured. Particularly if the Jaguars continue to scheme looks for Calvin Ridley, Lawrence should be able to move the ball through the air. He's been red-hot the last two weeks, which correlates with Ridley's resurgence. This is one case where the correlation is the causation also.

RUNNING BACK

Travis Etienne ($10200 DK, $16000 FD) is questionable with a chest injury, complicating what should have been a straightforwardly favorable matchup. Etienne has played exceptionally well this year but the Jaguars' run game playcalling is primitive, slow and repetitive, so when Etienne gets the ball defenses are usually sitting on it. Still, Etienne's talent is loud and he can take over a game even when most details are working against him. Any limitations with Etienne would be the benefit of D'Ernest Johnson ($4200 DK, $8500 FD) and to a lesser extent Tank Bigsby ($2200 DK, $8000 FD).

Joe Mixon ($7000 DK, $13500 FD) has the benefit of being fully healthy, but nearly everything else is working against him. Volume will likely be key against a Jacksonville run defense that simply doesn't give up much to opposing running backs. A short-yardage scoring opportunity or two would also be a likely requirement for Mixon to come through as a fantasy pick here. It would really help if the Jacksonville offense struggled, too, allowing Cincinnati to stick with the run. Trayveon Williams ($400 DK, $6500 FD) is the only other Bengals running back to log snaps recently, though it's not clear what he does.

WIDE RECEIVER + TIGHT END

The Browning limitation is a major one, and makes it difficult to correctly valuate Ja'Marr Chase ($9400 DK, $15000 FD). Chase is absolutely in the category of Transcendent at receiver, but this is one situation that requires a whole lot of transcending. That would be particularly true if corner Tyson Campbell is able to return from injury for Jacksonville. The return of Tee Higgins ($7600 DK, $10500 FD) is another complication – another stab at a pie that is already too small. While Chase and Higgins some shot of producing despite the poor circumstances, it's not as easy to generate optimism for a mortal like Tyler Boyd ($5600 DK, $7500 FD), and especially not Trenton Irwin ($1800 DK, $8000 FD). At tight end it has been Tanner Hudson ($4000 DK, $7500 FD) in the lead, though his usage is limited by the absurd four-man rotation the Bengals use at tight end, which also features Irv Smith, Drew Sample and Mitch Wilcox.

Calvin Ridley ($9200 DK, $12500 FD) and Christian Kirk ($8200 DK, $11500 FD) arguably carry the highest projections for pass catchers in this game, if only for the fact that they're catching passes from Lawrence instead of Browning. Ridley is the one more likely to get double-teamed, but the Jaguars have done a better job of using counter designs to free up Ridley – that these developments occurred in Lawrence's two best games of the season is not a coincidence. Hopefully the Jaguars will continue to get Ridley usage in accordance with his talent level. Evan Engram ($6200 DK, $10000 FD) is ready to pick up the slack if Ridley or Kirk fall any amount short of their customary standards, though it's unclear if Zay Jones ($5200 DK, $8000 FD) is in the right state to take advantage of his otherwise favorable circumstances here. Luke Farrell and Brenton Strange usually play 20-plus snaps as blocking tight ends, but both are questionable with injury.

KICKER

Brandon McManus ($5000 DK, $9500 FD) was a great offseason pickup for the Jaguars, as the pairing of McManus and the short fields won by the Jacksonville defense keeps the Jaguars perpetually in scoring range even when they're not moving the ball well. This should be a game where they move the ball fine, so floor and ceiling both seem favorable for McManus here. McManus has gone over double-digit fantasy points in six games this year, including a high of 17 points in Week 6.


 

Evan McPherson ($4600 DK, $9000 FD) is a very capable kicker and one who could make an impact even in this game, but unlike McManus on the other side, McPherson has nothing going for himself other than his own talent. Nearly every detail is favorable for McManus, but McPherson has a narrower path to viability since the Bengals are unlikely to move the ball well. The good news is that McPherson is so rangy the Bengals are nearly averaging a 50-yard field goal attempt per game.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

For whatever reason the Bengals ($3200 DK, $8500 FD) defense is not particularly close to as good as the 2022 Cincinnati defense, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo doesn't really appear to have any answers. Even if the 'bad' version of the Jaguars offense resurfaces in this game, the struggles of the Cincinnati offense could give the Jaguars such short fields that they pile up points even if the Cincinnati defense plays uncharacteristically well.

The Jaguars ($4800 DK, $9000 FD) defense, by contrast, has been strong all year and looks particularly well-suited to this matchup. Jake Browning is a backup for a reason, and he's not very good even as far as backups go. The Jacksonville run defense should be strong enough to stifle Joe Mixon and the running game without putting extra resources toward run defense specifically. A low point total, sacks and turnovers are all on the table for Jacksonville here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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