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Everything you need to know ahead of Jaguars-Bengals on Thursday Night Football

It's a battle of No. 1 overall picks as Trevor Lawrence leads the Big Cats into Cincinnati to take on Joe Burrow and the Bengals
Credit: AP
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Jamal Agnew (39) runs back a missed field goal for a 109-yard touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

UPDATED, September 30 7:20 P.M.:  

The Jaguars have released their inactives list for Thursday's Week Four game in Cincinnati, and veteran Carlos Hyde is among the healthy scratches. According to Jaguars.com's JP Shadrick, Hyde arrived at the stadium with a shoulder injury. 

In Hyde's absence, the Jaguars have just two active running backs: James Robinson and Dare Ogunbowale.

Additionally, the Jaguars elevated kicker Matt Wright from the Practice Squad and activated wide receiver Tavon Austin off the Reserve/Injured-Designated to Return list. With Hyde out, could Austin see touches in the run game?

Kick-off is scheduled for 8:20 p.m. on NFL Network. 

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For the fourth time in the last five years, the Jaguars (0-3) will square-off with the Cincinnati Bengals (2-1). For the first time during that stretch, this showdown will take place as a stand-alone, prime time match-up. Kick-off is slated for 8:20 p.m. on NFL Network. 

The Bengals won last year's match-up 33-25 in Cincinnati. 

Let's examine the storylines and keys for this Week Four showdown in Ohio. 

No. 1 vs. No. 1

It's a match-up that will feature the No. 1 overall pick in the past two NFL Drafts: Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence (2021) and Cincinnati's Joe Burrow (2020). 

Lawrence's continued development will continue to be one of, if not the biggest, storylines to watch. While he is completing just 54.2% of his passes on the season, Lawrence was 22-34 for 219 yards and a touchdown last week against the Arizona Cardinals. The biggest question for Lawrence continues to be his turnover rate. In three games, Lawrence has thrown seven interceptions; he also had two fumbles against the Cardinals.

"I think I have had four, bad decision turnovers -- which in three games is a little bit too much for sure," Lawrence said Tuesday of his seven interceptions. "I think against the Texans I had a few bad decisions that maybe did not get intercepted, but were close. Then, against the Broncos, a little less and then against the Cardinals I felt like I made really good decisions besides the one that ended up being a pick-six -- which hurt us. I really felt like that was my only bad decision in traffic. I felt like I was really clean on all my other reads, so I definitely feel the progress and I feel like I am seeing it really well and I feel good about where I am at.” 

This will be the first time Lawrence squares off with Burrow since the 2019-2020 National Championship Game, won by Burrow's LSU Tigers, 42-25. Lawrence had only ever met Burrow once before that, at the Manning Passing Academy the summer prior. 

"I have two [Clemson] teammates that play with him, and those guys like him," Lawrence said of Burrow. "He is a great player obviously.” 

After his rookie season was cut short due to an ACL tear, Burrow has responded with a strong start through the first three weeks of the 2021 season. The former Heisman Trophy winner is completing 70.7% of his passes, throwing for seven touchdowns to four interceptions; three of those interceptions came in the same game (and in succession) against the Chicago Bears Week Two. He played in just 10 games his rookie season, throwing for 13 touchdowns to just five interceptions while rushing for three more scores. Burrow started and played in last year's match-up with the Jaguars, going 25-36 for 300 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.  

While Burrow finished his collegiate career at LSU, he started it at Ohio State, playing for none other than first-year Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer.

“He was really hard on me, and it made me a better player and better person,” Burrow said. “What he does is, when he gets a new player, he tries to put them in a very intense situation to see how they respond, to see if he can trust that player. He really did that to me early in my career. I really wasn’t sure why it was happening. But then as I got older and more mature, I really understood why he was doing it, and it did make me better.” 

Battle of the Backs

After two weeks of [questionable] minimal reps, Jaguars' lead tailback James Robinson enjoyed his best game of the young season against the Cardinals, rushing for 88 yards on just 15 carries. J-Rob found the end-zone for the first time in 2021 on a four-yard score. He also added another 46 yards on six catches. His running mate, the veteran Carlos Hyde, also had an impressive showing, rushing for 44 yards on eight carries.

They'll face a much stiffer test in the Bengals' defense this week, which is giving up just 78.3 yards on the ground per game.

Meanwhile, the Bengals' Joe Mixon has carved up the Jaguars in their past four meetings. In three games, Mixon has five touchdowns against the Big Cats, three of them coming in the Bengals' 33-25 win in 2020. Mixon pounded the Jaguars for 151 yards on the ground in that game, including a long of 34. The Jaguars rush defense is much improved under defensive coordinator Joe Cullen, but Mixon is still as dangerous as ever: he already has 286 rushing yards through three games this season, including an 18-carry, 90-yard performance against the Steelers last week.

Agnew Named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month

When the Jaguars' first "marquee" signing of the 2021 off-season was a kick returner, many laughed.

After Jamal Agnew's first three games as a Jacksonville Jaguar, no one's laughing anymore.

The fifth year return-man became the first NFL player to return two kicks of 100-plus yards in consecutive games. Agnew housed a 102-yard kick-off return in the Jaguars' Week Two loss to the Broncos. He then tied an NFL-record with a 109-yard return on a failed field-goal attempt. 

He has two special teams return touchdowns this season while no other player in the NFL has posted one. Through Week 3, Agnew leads the NFL with a 46.0 kickoff return average (three returns for 138 yards).

Jaguars Injury Report

Fifth-year Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo did not make the trip to Cincinnati for personal/non-injury related reasons. Lambo is 1-of-3 from field goal range in 2021 and missed a pair of extra points in the team's Week Three loss to Arizona.

The recently-signed Matthew Wright, formerly of UCF, will make his Jaguars debut in Lambo's place. Wright was 4-of-4 from field goal range and a perfect 7-of-7 on point-after try's with the Steelers in 2020.

The only other player already ruled out for Thursday's game is defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris (ankle), who also missed last week's game against the Cardinals. Andrew Norwell (ankle), Cam Robinson (shoulder), and Tre Herndon (MCL) all participated in the team's final practice before departing for Cincinnati Wednesday. If Herndon is able to go, it will be his first game-action of 2021. 

On the Bengals side, the team is expected to be without top-receiver Tee Higgins and starting safety Jesse Bates. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (groin) and offensive lineman Xavier Su'a-Filio (knee) are also listed as doubtful.