The New Orleans Saints will host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, November 11th, at 12PM CT. It’s a big game for the Saints, who are now on a seven game win streak. It is as well for the Cincinnati Bengals who are trying to stay alive in the playoff hunt.
It’s reasonable to say that the Bengals have outperformed their expectations this season. I personally projected them winning five games all season, and so far they have already matched that. Sitting at 5-3, with a soaring Pittsburgh Steelers team leading their division and the Baltimore Ravens trying to close ground, this game is crucial to Cincinnati’s post-season hopes.
The game will be aired on FOX. Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis and Pam Oliver will be on the call. The Bengals will wear their orange jerseys with black pants, while the Saints will stick to their white jerseys and black pants. Here’s a little rundown for uniform fanatics like me:
Saints white jerseys this season: 3-0
Saints black pants this season: 5-0
Bengals orange jerseys this season: 1-0
Bengals black pants this season: 1-2
Final note on those uniforms, the Bengals have worn this combination six times since the redesign in 2014, and are 6-0.
In this article, we here at Full Press Coverage want to get you, the Saints fans, ready for game-day on Sunday. Here’s everything you need to know about the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati Bengals Offense
The Bengals offense has been effective so far this season, averaging 24.8 points per game. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has crafted a very efficient offense, turning the ball over just eight times. This team has yet to turn the ball over with a fumble, and have protected the ball well, only putting it on the turf six times all season.
The good news for the Saints defense is that star wide receiver A.J. Green will be out with a toe injury. He was injured during last weeks action against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is expected to miss a couple of weeks.
Here’s a quick look at the players on this offense that you need to know about:
(#14-QB) Andy Dalton
The Red Rifle, as they like to call him, Andy Dalton is a cautious gunslinger, if that makes any sense. A second round draft pick in 2011, Dalton was selected to be the franchise quarterback in Cincinnati for years to come. He became the starter immediately, and has missed a total of three games his entire career (all in 2015). He’s been a mediocre quarterback at best, sometimes flashing star like potential. Now in his eighth season in the league, I believe it’s safe to say he has hit his potential.
His mentality is his biggest flaw. He has the arm strength and sometimes plays like a gunslinger, but sometimes doesn’t want to take risks. It makes what to expect from him week-to-week very confusing, especially as a defensive coordinator.
Stats: So far this season, Andy Dalton is averaging 262.8 yards per game while completing 63.4% of his passes. His passer rating sits at 92.9 while his quarterback rating is at 65.5. Dalton has tossed 17 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions.
Cincinnati Bengals Running Backs
Joe Mixon (#28-HB) is the explosive second year player out of Oklahoma, the Bengals second round pick from last years draft. He’s a threat in both the rushing and passing game, with explosive quickness, good hands and great burst. He puts himself into good positions and very often gets defensive mismatches.
Giovani Bernard (#25-HB) is the veteran in this position group, being the teams second round pick in 2013. While slightly undersized, Bernard has a good burst and has the ability to break tackles in between the tackles. He is also a very capable receiver himself. Bernard has missed the last four games with a knee injury and is questionable to go on Sunday.
If Bernard is unable to play, the Bengals will leak rookie Mark Walton (#32-HB) into the rotation. While he hasn’t been impressive yet in limited action, Walton is also a good receiver and is more of a north/south runner in the body of a scat-back.
Stats: Mixon leads the Bengals rushers with 509 yards and 5 touchdowns through just six games. Bernard only played in the first four games, but scored 3 touchdowns during that stretch. The Bengals running backs have run for 718 yards through the first eight games, an average of 89.75 yards per game. The Saints defense right now is holding teams to just 76.4 rushing yards per game, the best run defense in the league. The Bengals will have their hands full with the Saints stiff run defense.
Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receivers
A.J. Green, as mentioned earlier, is out of this game with a toe injury. That leaves Cincinnati with a talented but very young group of receivers for Andy Dalton to work with. Tyler Boyd (#83-WR), last years other second round pick, has stepped up tremendously already this season as a very reliable second option. He will move into the first option. Boyd brings a consistent route tree and very reliable hands to the table. He has good size (6’2″, 203 pounds) and should still be effective from that spot.
Sliding up into the number two receiver is still up for grabs. John Ross (#15-WR), the teams first round pick from last season, has struggled heavily his entire NFL career thus far with injuries. He’s a burner, a small speed guy faster than anyone on the field. Ross holds the NFL Combine record with his 4.22 second forty yard dash. He’s been targeted 16 times this year, catching 7 of the passes and scoring 2 touchdowns. Ross has missed three games this year dealing with a groin injury, and is probable for Sundays game.
If Ross isn’t able to go, the Bengals will have to turn to Alex Erickson (#12-WR) and Cody Core (#16-WR). Both are extremely inexperienced players on the pro field, and we aren’t too sure what they bring to the table quite yet. Josh Malone (#80-WR) could see more playing time as well, even though he remains questionable this week with a hamstring injury.
Stats: The loss of Green is huge, as the Bengals lose 85.9 yards per game and 6 touchdowns of production. Boyd is capable of stepping up, now the question is if the Bengals receivers behind him are ready to produce. Boyd is having a good season, he has 49 catches for 620 yards and has scored 5 times. The combination of Erickson, Core and Malone has 21 games and 2 starts between the three of them, and they’ve produced just 12 catches on 24 targets this season.
Cincinnati Bengals Tight Ends
This is a question mark for the Bengals this week. Tyler Eifert (#85-TE) is on the injured reserve with a broken ankle and will not appear on the field in New Orleans. Instead, the Bengals have been starting C.J. Uzomah (#87-TE), their fifth round pick from 2015. With a healthy dose of Uzomah and Tyler Kroft (#81-TE), the tight ends have remained a consistent threat in the passing attack for the Bengals.
Stats: Uzomah and Kroft have combined for 21 catches and 2 touchdowns, but have been very reliable in the running game as capable blockers. The Bengals are well off at this position.
Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
The Bengals are still working on building the offensive line, but have a few key anchor pieces in place to really help the progression. They acquired Cordy Glenn (#77-LT) via trade this past off-season from the Buffalo Bills. Clint Boling (#65-LG) remains reliable as well. The Bengals are allowing exactly two sacks a per game, which is decent in the league.
In good news for the Bengals, Billy Price (#53-C) is supposed to return after a six game absence due to a foot sprain. That should help bolster the Bengals front against a stout Saints defensive line.
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Cincinnati Bengals Defense
The Bengals defense has been the Achilles Heel of their this season, mainly for being wildly undisciplined. They are the worst pass defense and are ranked 26th against the run. Cincinnati is allowing 29.7 points per game, and this is something the Saints are looking to capitalize upon.
From an outsiders perspective, the biggest issue with the Bengals is Vontaze Burfict (#55-LB). Known as the dirtiest player in the NFL, Burfict sat out the first four games of the season for PED’s. He’s been suspended six games of his career for breaking player safety rules on the field, not to mention the four other times he was fined for doing dumb things to opposing players. While he missed the last week with a hip injury, the Bengals defense while he has played and while he hasn’t is noticeably different:
With Vontaze Burfict (3 games): 1-2 (.333), 30 PPG
Without Vontaze Burfict (5 games): 4-1 (.800), 29.4 PPG
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has a big decision on his hands. While Burfict is a special player with unique abilities, he costs the defense big plays with personal foul penalties. In 2017, he was called on seven personal foul penalties, including two in the week 10 Tennessee Titans game that saw him ejected.
Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Line
This is the one positional group on this team that remains untouched by injuries up to this point. Carlos Dunlap (#96-DE) and Geno Atkins (#97-DT) have both been pass rushing monsters thus far this season. Dunlap and Atkins are both finesse pass rushers, relying on a variety of special moves to get past the offensive line and disrupt the backfield.
Michael Johnson (#90-DE) has been pretty much ineffective as a pass rusher, and has split a lot of time with rookie Sam Hubbard (#94-DE), who has played very well in his eight games. Hubbard should soon overtake Johnson for the starting spot on the other side.
Atkins and Andrew Billings (#99-NT) make up the inside of the line, Atkins being more of the pass rusher while Billings is more of the run stuffer. Adolphus Washington (#92-DT) tends to sub in for Billings on pass rushing downs, as he is a little bit more capable of getting to the quarterback.
Stats- This active group of defensive linemen have collected 17.5 sacks this season, 13 just between Dunlap and Atkins. They’ve hit the opposing quarterback 41 times, and have 22 tackles for loss. They are a very active group pass rushing, and should be a very good match against the Saints offensive line.
Cincinnati Bengals Linebackers
The position groups leading tackler, Nick Vigil (#59-LB), is out with a sprained MCL. This means that Jordan Evans (#50-LB) and Hardy Nickerson (#56-LB) will need to step up along side Preston Brown (#52-LB) and Vontaze Burfict. Burfict is questionable, which means he may or may not play on Sunday, and will probably be a game time decision.
Brown is a good coverage linebacker, meaning that he is most effective on the field in coverage. Evans and Nickerson are more of run stoppers, which is exactly what the Bengals will need, especially if Burfict doesn’t play. Expect to see Vincent Rey (#57-LB) and rookie Malik Jefferson (#45-LB) play more snaps if Burfict is inactive. Rey is a tackler with good coverage skills, while Jefferson is more of an edge player.
Stats- This linebacker group has been acceptable this season. They have 3 interceptions, 6 pass break-ups and 119 tackles between the six active players. This unit struggles to get into the backfield, and lost Vigil who has a unit high 4 tackles for loss.
Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Backs
This is a unit that should have a lot of talent. The starting corner backs, William Jackson (#22-CB) and Dre Kirkpatrick (#27-CB), are both former 1st round picks selected by the Bengals. Darqueze Dennard (#21-CB), the nickel corner, is another. Yet somehow, this group still struggles to cover wide receivers. Jackson is still improving, little by little, and is developing quite nicely. Kirkpatrick, however, has been getting picked on since he was drafted in 2012. He and Dennard are both questionable ahead of this weeks game.
The safeties are solid. Shawn Williams (#36-SS) is locking down one half of the field while rookie Jessie Bates (#30-FS) is leading the team in tackles. Both players have been ball-hawks so far this season, playing aggressive styles and complimenting each other well. It’s been one of the few bright spots in this defense.
Stats- The safeties are killing it. Between Williams and Bates, they have 106 tackles, 6 interceptions, 9 passes defended, and a touchdown. They’ve been hard to throw against all year. The corner backs, however, have been the opposite. Between five corner backs active on this team, they have no interceptions and have defended 21 passes. It’s going to have to get better against a quarterback playing like Drew Brees is right now for the Saints.
Prediction: Saints by 9
It’s not that hard. Several analysts are calling this a “trap game” and thinking that the Bengals have a chance. Let’s face the facts:
Yeah, those few stats right there tell the story. The Saints are going to have a field day with this defense. Maybe not early, but the Saints offensive line will figure out the algorithms of the Bengals front and limit how much they can hit the quarterback. While Brees might struggle to find openings against the safeties, it’s not the safeties covering Alvin Kamara out of the backfield or Ben Watson on the stick route.
The Bengals are probably going to score 30 points on the Saints defense. I would say 35 isn’t an unreasonable number. The difference to this game is that the Saints could put 49 on the Bengals defense potentially.
Prediction: Saints 42 Bengals 33
It will be a good game in the Superdome. Tune in at 12:00 PM CT. Game coverage is in red.