The Indianapolis Colts host the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday. Last year, the Bengals took the Colts apart in a 42-28 game where Indy didn’t show up till the second half.
This season, the Bengals are 3-1-1 (yes, they tied last week). Their past two games have been rough resulting in a one-sided road loss to the Patriots and a high scoring home tie versus the Panthers.
The defense gave up just 33 total points in three wins, but in these last two weeks they’ve coughed up 80 points. With the Colts currently leading the NFL in scoring, it could be another long day for the Bengals.
Today, we delve into the stats to see how the Bengals have performed this season.
The Bengals on Offense
In terms of traditional stats, the Bengals are averaging nearly 270 passing yards per game (eighth in the NFL) and 127 yards rushing (11th in the league). Football Outsiders has them as the fifth most efficient offense, and are fifth in passing and ninth in rushing.
They even managed to improve slightly this past week without A.J. Green on the field. Mohamed Sanu stepped up in Green’s absence last week to the tune of 10 receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. Despite the impressive output from the offense last week, the Bengals would love to get Green back this week as he is the team’s primary deep threat and he ranks sixth in DVOA among receivers.
Sanu had a big game, but he isn’t likely to produce like that every week. The Bengals will want to run Giovani Bernard against the Colts mediocre run defense, much like the Texans did last week. Bernard is averaging 4.5 per carry and is 10th in total yards in the NFL.
They’ll likely run off the left side where Andrew Whitworth plays tackle and leads the offense with a +10.2 from PFF. The Bengals once again have a very good offensive line that is second in power running and rarely do the backs get stuffed for no gain or a loss.
They currently have the best pass blocking in the league as well. The Bengals have given up just two sacks and the line has rarely given up any sort of pressure.
Andy Dalton (+6.4) has played well, but has just six touchdowns in five games to show for it. He’s only turned the ball over three times and is completing 68-percent of his passes.
They do struggle on third down, and are converting on just 38-percent of their attempts. The Colts have held opponents to a 29.7-percent conversion rate, a number which will likely continue versus the Bengals.
What this means for the Colts:
The balanced attack of the Bengals means they can hurt opponents in a variety of ways. If Green doesn’t play, this offense isn’t nearly as scary. He didn’t exactly kill the Colts last season, six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown, but he can be a gamebreaker given a chance.
Expect the Bengals to hit the ground hard as the Colts are 31st against the run per Football Outsiders, despite allowing just 107 rushing yards per game. Make no mistake, Indy really isn’t very good at stopping the run and its likely to be on display against the Bengals.
This won’t be the first time the Colts faced a top offensive line as the Ravens were near the top of the league in pass protection before getting to Joe Flacco four times. The Bengals have a much better line, but expect the constant pressure and blitzes to continue this week.
The Bengals on Defense:
Defensively, the Bengals have struggled lately. They currently rank 22nd and 29th against the pass and run, respectively. Football Outsiders paints a different picture, where the Bengals are 14th overall on defense. DVOA has them with the second best pass defense in the league, but the worst run defense in the NFL.
Collectively, PFF gives the Bengals a -39.4 overall. The secondary has seven interceptions this season but the pass rush hasn’t been there. The Bengals have just eight sacks all season, which is why PFF gives them a -28 overall for pass rush with only Geno Atkins recording a solid positive rating.
They are 24th in rushing the passer, per DVOA, and generate pressure on just 4.6-percent of dropbacks. Basically, the Bengals can cover and that is about it.
What this means for the Colts:
Andrew Luck will have time, but it might be difficult to locate the open man. That said, the Bengals struggle to cover tight ends and Dwayne Allen is currently fifth in DVOA. Expect him to feast against the Cincy linebackers (who are also penalty prone).
The Colts will also be able to run the ball. The Bengals don’t have anyone close to J.J. Watt‘s level (no one does) and that means the Indy running backs will have room to breath. We’ve seen the Colts face the worst, or one of the worst, run defenses multiple times this season to little effect, but with the play action threat and Luck’s hot streak the Bengals will play the pass every down.