You might want to look away if you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3). Despite sitting in the second Wild Card spot in the AFC and playing at home in Week 10, Cincinnati is a 5.0-point underdog against the NFC-leading New Orleans Saints (7-1) this Sunday (November 11, 2018 at 1:00pm EST, at Paul Brown Stadium).
Sportsbooks don’t see the defenses getting a lot of stops in this game, setting the game total at a healthy 54.0.
New Orleans Saints
Last season, New Orleans had an uncharacteristically ground-based offense. They pounded Mark Ingram on early downs and utilized then-rookie Alvin Kamara as a change of pace back, and it worked wonders. This year, however, Sean Payton has turned back to the golden arm of Drew Brees. Though nine weeks, the Saints have the seventh-ranked passing attack, the 15th-ranked rushing attack, and the second-ranked scoring offense at 34.9 points per game.
Brees (2,336 passing yards and 18 touchdowns) is playing at an MVP level. While he doesn’t have the deepest roster of receivers to work with, he has one of the very best in all of football in Michael Thomas (880 receiving yards and five touchdowns). The third-year pro continued his career season last week, registering 211 yards and one touchdown against the Rams.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) November 5, 2018
Kamara is the team’s second-leading receiver with 427 yards on 51 receptions. But Brees now has a new weapon in the passing game as New Orleans just signed ex-Cowboy Dez Bryant, who should function something like a slot receiver/tight end in this offense, since he no longer possesses the speed to be a deep threat.
New Orleans’ defense was much criticized in the early part of the year after giving up 40-plus points in two of its first three games. But it has been much better of late.
It had a run of holding opponents to 23 points or fewer in four straight games. That came to an end against the Rams’ high-powered attack in Week 9, but the D still made enough plays to escape with a 45-35 win.
The pass defense remains second-worst in the NFL (311.4 passing yards per game), while the rush defense is actually first in the league.
That bodes well against a Bengal team missing top WR AJ Green.
Saints vs Bengals Statistical Comparison
|34.9 (2nd)||PPG||27.6 (10th)|
|402.0 (7th)||YPG||344.3 (24th)|
|112.1 (15th)||Rushing YPG||92.8 (26th)|
|289.9 (7th)||Passing YPG||251.1 (17th)|
|27.3 (27th)||PPG Allowed||29.6 (30th)|
|387.8 (25th)||YPG Allowed||447.8 (32nd)|
|76.4 (1st)||Rushing YPG Allowed||128.4 (26th)|
|311.4 (31st)||Passing YPG Allowed||319.4 (32nd)|
|0 (T16th)||Turnover Differential||+4 (T10th)|
Looking at the Bengals’ statistics, above, you would not think this is a 5-3 team. But thanks to a lethal passing game and an opportunistic defense that’s generating a lot of takeaways, the Bengals have scored enough (27.6 points per game) to win five of their first eight.
Andy Dalton has been above-average for Cincinnati this season, amassing 2,102 yards through the air (17th) with a 17:8 TD to INT ratio, good for a 92.9 passer rating.
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) November 5, 2018
However, Dalton won’t be able to rely on A.J. Green this week. His favorite target, who has caught 45 passes for 687 receiving yards (13th) and six touchdowns, is out with a toe injury. That’s going to put immense pressure on Tyler Boyd (49 receptions, 620 yards, 5 TD), who’s having a breakout season opposite Green, but will receive a lot more attention from the defense than he’s used to in Week 10.
The Bengals’ ground game has been better than the bare numbers suggest. While they’re only averaging 92.8 YPG, they are 13th in the league in yards per carry at 4.4. Bell-cow back Joe Mixon has paced the team with 509 yards and 5 TDs on 105 carries (4.8 YPC).
Since a lot of people that don’t follow the team daily seemed surprised at how bad the Bengals’ defense is so far…they’re currently on pace to break the 2012′ Saints record for most yards allowed in a season.
— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) November 6, 2018
The only positive about the Cincinnati defense is the aforementioned 13 takeaways, which includes 10 INTs. This unit is getting lit up both on the ground and through the air, and that’s resulted in opponents averaging 29.6 PPG, third-worst in the NFL.
Facing a New Orleans team that has only committed eight turnovers and thrown just one interception is a recipe for disaster. If the Bengals aren’t getting takeaways, they have little hope of stopping this Saints’ attack.