JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Josh Allen remembers the moment he heard the Jacksonville Jaguars would be playing on “Monday Night Football.”
He was working out in Arizona in May and picked up his phone to scroll through highlights of the 2023 schedule.
“I screamed,” the pass rusher recalled Thursday.
It meant that much to Allen. The primetime showcase might mean even more to the small-market franchise.
The Jaguars (8-3) will return to the coveted spot for the first time in a dozen years when they host the reeling Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) to end the Week 13 schedule.
Every team in the league has played on “Monday Night Football” at least seven times since Jacksonville’s 38-14 home loss to Philip Rivers and the then-San Diego Chargers on Dec. 5, 2011.
Six teams — Chicago, New Orleans, the New York Giants, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle — have each played more than 20 times on “MNF” since.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, kept getting overlooked — even after making the AFC title game in the 2017 season. Their market played a role. So did the team’s lack of success; Jacksonville finished with double-digit losses 10 times in 11 seasons between 2011 and 2021.
“We just got to keep winning,” Allen said. “If we keep winning and then they see us in the Super Bowl, I really could care less about how people feel or how they see us. That’s really how we rock. We win games, and you don’t hear about us."
The Jaguars are making noise. They’ve won seven of their past eight this season and 14 of 18 going back to last season. And they hope to keep it going against the Bengals, who have lost three in a row and will be without star quarterback Joe Burrow following season-ending wrist surgery.
“It’s obviously exciting,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said. “It’s always an electric moment. We’ll have conversations this week. It’s really just approaching it the same, learning to control your emotions. I want the guys to feel relaxed, but at the same time, continue to have that edge that we’ve had the last couple of weeks.
“Monday night is a special night. You’re the only game on, everybody is watching you and you want to put your best foot forward.”
The Bengals have struggled to do that on one of the league’s brightest stages. Cincinnati is 3-20 on the road in Monday night games, the worst record in NFL history. The Bengals have lost nine in a row on the road on “MNF,” with their previous victory coming against Cleveland in 1990.
They probably need to end the skid against Jacksonville to avoid fading in the crowded AFC playoff picture.
“No one is out of it; no one is in,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “We’re right where we need to be. We just have to play our best football. Plenty of opportunity in front of us with people we play against that are in similar positions, maybe slightly more favorable.”
TAYLOR BROTHERS BOWL
Taylor and his younger brother, Press, will be on opposite sidelines for the first time since the 2020 season. Press Taylor is Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator and play-caller.
Press also has the edge in their head-to-head NFL matchups, posting a 2-1-1 record against Zac. Their most recent meeting came in 2020, with Zac in his second season as the Bengals coach and Press on Pederson’s staff in Philadelphia. It ended in a 23-23 tie.
DEALING WITH IT
Burrow and his teammates are still getting over the shock of his injury, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said this week. Burrow was in street clothes on the sideline during last week’s loss to Pittsburgh and had surgery Monday.
“I think it’s a difficult thing to wrap your mind around, to be out there at the game the next week watching someone else run the offense and not being able to,” Callahan said. “I think that’s a hard thing so I give him a little bit of grace for how difficult that probably is for him.”
RUNNING ON EMPTY
Cincinnati's lack of a consistent run game makes Browning’s job more difficult. The Bengals have struggled to run all season despite having Joe Mixon behind an offensive line that was fortified in the offseason by signing four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
The Bengals are last in the NFL in rushing, averaging 75.8 yards a game.
The Jaguars will have their fifth starting offensive line combination of the season. They placed left tackle Cam Robinson (knee) on injured reserve and will move guard Walker Little to replace Robinson and turn to veteran Ezra Cleveland to step in at left guard. Jacksonville sent a sixth-round draft pick to Minnesota to get Cleveland at the trade deadline.