Well, the New Orleans Saints finally got their second win of the season after what seemed like forever. Now sitting at 2-3, the Saints look towards their next matchup in the dome against the Cincinnati Bengals, who are also at 2-3. Both teams have underperformed expectations so far and have had a slow start, but look to get back to .500 this weekend and give themselves a shot at a run for the postseason. In this article, I will be covering how the Saints’ pass offense and Bengals’ pass defense have performed so far, and what we should anticipate in their matchup against each other.
How have these units performed this season?
The Saints’ passing offense has had a slow start, but Andy Dalton has somewhat stabilized the unit these last two games. On the season the Saints rank 15th in passing yards (1303), 13th in completion percentage (65.5%), 6th in yards per attempt (7.8), 16th in passing touchdowns (7), 15th in passer efficiency rating (88.0), and are tied for 2nd in most 40+ yard completions (5). They rank about dead center of the league in most passing stats this season, as they struggled mightily in the passing game to open the season, but have been producing at a higher rate lately.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals’ passing defense has been one of their bright spots to start the season, ranking among the league’s best so far. While they have allowed the 15th most passing yards this season (1137), they rank 1st in completion percentage allowed (57.4%), 7th in yards per pass allowed (6.0), are tied for 3rd least amount of passing touchdowns allowed (4), are tied for 4th most interceptions (5), and are 2nd in 1st down percentage when the opponent passes (27.4%). Overall this is probably the one unit on their team that has outproduced expectations and has truly been efficient all season.
What should we expect from these units on Sunday?
This is where things get more interesting, as these units having good production will come down to how the individual matchups turn out. It will be an interesting battle if the Saints have their 3 primary receivers back this week, which is likely the case for Michael Thomas and potentially Chris Olave as he is “feeling good”.
Chris Olave could get his chance to even further endear himself to Saints fans, as he would get a chance to go up against former Saints CB Eli Apple. Michael Thomas going up against Chidobe Awuzie would be a phenomenal matchup if Thomas plays, as Awizue has been on a tear this season, only allowing 37.5% of passes to be completed against him, and a 54.9 QBR when targeted. Then, provided he plays, Jarvis Landry against Mike Hilton in the slot/nickel respectively would be another great matchup.
As for what we should expect in this matchup? Based on the statistics, it should be heavily favorable to the Bengals in this scenario. Now the odds that the Saints are completely shut down and taken off the map is unlikely, but this likely will not be a shootout in the passing game unless Thomas or Olave is able to get off their man. Expect the running game to get a lot of work this game, with Adam Trautman and the tight end room getting more targets than usual to attack a struggling Bengals linebacker unit.