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Bills Week 17 opponent preview: Bengals defense

An overview of Cincinnati’s stop unit against Mr. Jones

Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills are set to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in prime time! This Monday Night Football game will likely play a huge role in determining who gets the top seed for the AFC playoffs. I often select a single player for these, but with the Bengals’ defensive statistics closely matching the vaunted Buffalo Nickel in many respects, I wanted to dive deeper. Don’t worry, I’ll throw in some fun GIFs too, but be prepared for a bunch of numbers first. Away we go!

Surface-level stats

From a quick glance, the defenses of the Bills and Bengals look pretty similar. Buffalo is in second place in the league for points per game at 17.5, but the Bengals allow less than a field goal more per game at 20.4 points per game. That’s ninth in the league, and by my rule of four, that’s technically in the “average” grouping, but barely so.

For yards per play, Buffalo falls in at 10th with 5.1 yards, with the Bengals not too far behind at 5.4 yards per play. That’s tied for 14th — not far behind at all. They’re close when it comes to passing yards per attempt, too. Buffalo allows 6.6 yards per attempt, and the Bengals 6.9 yards. The rushing yards per attempt slightly favors the Bengals. They allow 4.2 yards per rush, while the Bills allow 4.3 yards.

When it comes to overall pressure rate — a combination of hurries, sacks, and knockdowns — the two teams are identical. Both defenses pressure the QB on 23.1% of dropbacks. That’s tied for ninth-best in the league.

Before you forget about that last one, let’s take a deeper look (and then we’ll find some other differences). Remember that pressure rate is the combination of knockdowns, hurries, and sacks. The Bengals have a higher rate of knockdowns than the Bills. The Bills have a higher rate of sacks. Buffalo is average when it comes to sacks, while Cincinnati has the fourth-fewest. What that means is that Cincinnati is good at hurrying and hitting the quarterback, but they don’t often prevent a pass with a pressure.

Instead of a summary, I’ll put some thoughts embedded here throughout. For quarterback Josh Allen, specifically, this is a huge sigh of relief. Despite some offensive line woes, Buffalo is eighth-best at avoiding sacks. This is in large part thanks to Allen, who is also pretty good under pressure.

When it comes to per-drive metrics, there’s also a bit of a divide. Buffalo allows a score on 30.8% of drives, which is third best. Cincinnati? They allow a score on 37.3% of drives, which is 17th in the league. It plays out similar with points. Buffalo is fourth-best in the NFL at 1.64 points allowed, with Cincinnati seven spots behind allowing 1.84 points per drive.

What does all this mean? Both teams aren’t ones to be trifled with, but the surface-level stats aren’t the whole story. The advanced stats give the edge to Buffalo’s defense, and some specific numbers should give Bills fans a little extra excitement for this contest. Now for some GIFs!

Bengals sack Michael McCorkle “Mac” Jones

The Bengals have 26 sacks this season, with four coming last week against the New England Patriots. On this one, Cincinnati arguably was lucky it was Mac Jones, who goes into the fetal position incredibly early. There’s protecting yourself, and then there’s... whatever this is. I think Allen picks up the four yards, which is not an insult to Logan Wilson, who registered this takedown.

Sacking Mac, Part 2

The Bengals do a great job collapsing the pocket here, and this isn’t like what we saw above, where they were a bit lucky on the sack. For the record, all teams do find themselves lucky from time to time, so that’s no intended slight on Cincinnati. There’s nothing for me to poke fun of here on Jones, which is unfortunate, as I’d really like to. Jones has demonstrated he’s a dirty, petty player on numerous occasions, which is quite the feat for a second-year player. I have genuine dislike for only a handful of players, and Jones is on that list.

The Bengals, on the other hand, I have no reason to dislike — so it’s fun for me to watch defensive end Cameron Sample take down Jones.

Bengals order another sack of McCorkle

Jones avoids one would-be sack, but defensive tackle Josh Tupou comes in to finish the job. This is all due to a free rusher off the edge from Cincinnati, causing Jones to panic. The Bengals blitz almost the exact same amount as Buffalo, which isn’t a lot.

Yes, these are just GIFs of the Bengals sacking Mac Jones

This is another play where maybe Allen turns the breakdown into a positive. The Bengals do a good job here, and both defensive tackle Zachary Carter and defensive end Joseph Ossai shed their blocks to fill the lane before Jones can do anything with it.

In summary

Anyway, none of this article is intended to dismiss the Bengals’ defense. None of the stats show a bad unit; in fact, they range from average to good in just about any measure you want to take a look at. Combined with a potent offense, that’s a formula for winning. Also, I’m happy that there were a handful of great plays showing them getting Jones on the ground to show off that they can be an effective unit. On paper, Allen should fare better than what we saw above, but that’s why they play the game.