The Indianapolis Colts host the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round of the playoffs this weekend. The Colts have made the playoffs for the third straight year and face a similar situation to last season.
The Colts dominated the Bengals in Week 7, but that game has little to no bearing on Sunday’s matchup. Vontae Davis might have done the Bengals a big favor, in fact, by taking out Giovani Bernard which led to the emergence of Jeremy Hill.
The Colts won that game 27-0, but the Bengals didn’t have A.J. Green and the defense was banged up and transitioning their play style. Indy caught them at the right time and it led to a lopsided win, even with some offensive issues that prevented it from being a 40 point blowout.
However, meeting the Bengals in the postseason is historically a great time to face them.
To say the Bengals have struggled in the playoffs would be an understatement. They are 5-12 all time but have made the playoffs six times under Marvin Lewis. Most damning, they have never won a road game in the postseason.
The Bengals on Offense
Cincy finished the season sixth in rushing yards per game and 21st in passing. DVOA has them 18th overall with the 2oth passing offense and 10th on the ground.
Despite some flashy games, Hill hasn’t exactly been the tour de force he’s made out to be. He has five games with over 100 yards rushing in his past nine, but he’s had his fair share of bad games as well. Hill can be a bit one dimensional as he isn’t that great in the passing game and lacks experience when it comes to blocking.
PFF has Hill 19th among running backs while Football Outsiders has him sixth in DVOA and DYAR. The Bengals would be smart to run Hill for most of the game to pound away at the Colts suspect run defense.
The Bengal’s greatest strength is likely their offensive line. PFF has the unit rated fifth in both pass and run blocking while Football Outsiders has them 11th in run blocking and fifth in pass protection.
The rushing attack could be even more important if Green doesn’t play this week due to a concussion. He’s far and away the team’s best weapon (and one of the more talented wide receivers in the league) and their offense can come to a grinding halt when he’s off the field.
Injuries have hurt Green’s metrics this season but he still finished with over 1,000 yards receiving.
Andy Dalton has had his worst season as a pro and hasn’t produced after signing a new contract. PFF has him 21st overall while Football Outsiders has him 22nd. What stands out to me is the 19 touchdowns in a passing league where good QBs can roll out of bed and toss 25 a season.
What This Means for the Colts on Defense
The last meeting saw the Colts blitz heavily and land four sacks. Without Green, Dalton didn’t know where to go with the ball and Davis took away his hot read on most plays.
While that game plan likely won’t work this time around, the Colts will still have to blitz to generate pressure. They’ve thrived against inferior QBs this season, which easily includes Dalton.
It also sounds like Davis might end up shadowing Green if he does indeed play. Davis has been almost exclusively on the left side this season, but putting him on the best player would be a smart decision.
The Bengals on Defense
In terms of traditional stats, the Bengals are 20th in both rushing and passing yards allowed. They are also giving up 21.5 points per game.
DVOA has them with the 14th overall defense and are seventh against the pass but 28th when it comes to stopping the run. PFF gave them a -22.3 for their run defense, but that isn’t nearly as bad as the -57.3 for their pass rush.
The defensive line has been awful for the Bengals this season, unable to generate sacks or stop the ball carrier.
The secondary has been outstanding as the Bengals have spent a number of high round draft picks to build up a quality secondary.
What This Means for the Colts on Offense
This game will pit strength against strength with the Colts passing attack and Bengals secondary. The Colts offensive line has had its issues lately, but luckily the Bengals line isn’t very good and is painfully inconsistent.
That said, the Colts have struggled to run the ball against team’s that are terrible in run defense. The Colts will need to air it out and let Andrew Luck take control of the offense. Trying to force a run game from this team is just begging for a loss.
If the Colts have cleaned up some of the mistakes from recent weeks on offense, they will pick apart this defense.