The Daily Sweat: We know Jaguars are bad, but are the Bengals good?

Let's get the obvious angle out of the way: The Jacksonville Jaguars are a bad football team.

Jacksonville is 0-3 and have a -38 point differential. Trevor Lawrence has been an interception machine and Urban Meyer isn't helping much. They might win a few games this season, but it's certainly not guaranteed. They might be picking first overall again, no matter how hard the New York Jets try to get that spot.

It would be hard to argue that the Jaguars are the kind of underdog a bettor would want to back. But what about the other side of the Thursday night matchup? It's possible the Cincinnati Bengals are at least competent. They're 7.5-point favorites at BetMGM over the Jaguars.

Competent would be a great improvement in the Zac Taylor era. Taylor's record was 6-25-1 through two seasons, and Taylor's .203 winning percentage coming into this season would have been the second-worst in NFL history if he qualified (Pro Football Reference's winning percentage rankings only include coaches with four years of experience). It does seem Cincinnati has turned a corner.

The Bengals beat the Minnesota Vikings in the opener, had a disappointing loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 2 but rebounded to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road last week. Joe Burrow looks like he's all the way back from a major knee injury. The Bengals have some exciting skill-position players. The defense has been surprisingly good. The offensive line still is not great, but it's not like Jacksonville can take advantage of that.

The pick for Thursday night is the Bengals, and not just because the Jaguars are bad. If the Bengals' defensive improvement sticks to some extent, Cincinnati could be in playoff contention. Blowing out the Jaguars in prime time would be a good way to send a message that the Bengals are ready to take a big step.

Joe Burrow has the Bengals off to a 2-1 start. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Burrow has the Bengals off to a 2-1 start. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Here's our first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:

Any props for Bengals-Jaguars?

Tee Higgins has been ruled out, so let's go with Tyler Boyd to score the first touchdown (+900 at BetMGM) and over 59.5 yards for him. Boyd should have a very nice game. I will go under on Joe Burrow 249.5 passing yards, because a blowout is possible and that could turn Burrow into a handoff artist in the second half. Trevor Lawrence over 1.5 interceptions is +135, and we've seen what happens when the Jaguars fall behind and they ask Lawrence to drag them back in the game.

Also, I like the over of 45.5. The Bengals can score and the Jaguars will give them plenty of short fields with turnovers.

What about college football?

There's one game. The Miami Hurricanes take on Virginia and they're 5-point favorites. Miami quarterback D'Eriq King seems unlikely to play, but it might not matter. Virginia is coming off back-to-back 20-point losses and their defense is bad. Miami can get a win without relying too much on its backup quarterback, and can probably cover too.

And what about baseball?

It'll be hard to bet baseball the next few days. There are so few teams playing for anything (most teams are eliminated or have their playoff position clinched) that it'll be hard to figure out motivation. The teams that are playing for something might have bad matchups, like the Boston Red Sox against the Baltimore Orioles or the San Francisco Giants against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The New York Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays and that's a solid matchup, but it's probably for the best to avoid baseball until the postseason starts next week.

What's the best bet?

Over 45.5 for Bengals-Jaguars seems like it should hit. The Jaguars should put up some points, and give away a few as well. The Bengals can move the ball. It's a good recipe for points.