When the 2023 NFL season began, it wouldn't have been out of the question to project Bengals versus Jaguars as a potential AFC Championship matchup. Some of the luster of their upcoming Week 13 showdown has surely worn off, now that Joe Burrow is sidelined for the season due to injury. But that doesn't make their contest any less important in the conference playoff race.
While the Bengals (5-6) are under .500 after falling to the rival Steelers in Jake Browning's first game under center, they remain just two games back from both Pittsburgh and the Browns in the tight AFC North. The Jaguars (8-3), meanwhile, find themselves in the thick of the fight for the AFC's No. 1 playoff seed after winning seven of their last eight.
Which contender will step up in prime time to close Week 13? And how can you tune in? Here's everything you need to know, including key matchups and a game prediction:
How to watch
- When: Monday, Dec. 4 | 8:15 p.m. ET
- Location: EverBank Stadium (Jacksonville, Florida)
- TV: ESPN, ABC | Stream: fubo (try for free)
- Follow: CBS Sports App
- Odds: Jaguars -8.5, O/U 39 (via SportsLine consensus odds)
Keys to the game
- Can Tee Higgins truly get involved? The wideout has missed the Bengals' last three games with a hamstring injury, but he's returned to practice and could be back in the lineup to help draw attention away from No. 1 target Ja'Marr Chase. His presence alone, if healthy, could go a long way in helping Jake Browning spread the ball around and open up the field.
- Will Joe Mixon have anywhere to run? Cincinnati gave the veteran just eight carries against the Steelers in Week 12, and now the Bengals are up against the NFL's No. 4-ranked run defense in Jacksonville. Higgins' return could help, as noted, but the biggest thing Browning could use is some support on the ground. That requires a big leap from both Mixon and the line.
- Can Trevor Lawrence keep attacking downfield? The quarterback had some chemistry issues with his wideouts early this year, but Jacksonville's now up to the No. 12 scoring offense, enjoying some big-play production from both Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk as of late. The Bengals, meanwhile, have surrendered 17 pass plays of 20+ yards in the last three weeks.
If Joe Burrow were healthy, this would've been must-see TV, but even then, the Bengals would have reason for concern, considering how vulnerable they've been on defense, giving up more yards than all but the mercurial Chargers. That's not to say Jacksonville's cruised to its 8-3 record, encountering plenty of situational hiccups. Left tackle Cam Robinson will also be absent due to injury in this one, with corner Tyson Campbell also banged up. Even so, the disparity in QB talent makes a difference, and Doug Pederson should be able to design more than enough splash plays to keep the Bengals in a hole.
Score: Jaguars 27, Bengals 16