The New Orleans Saints finally got back in the groove last weekend with a close win against the Seattle Seahawks, and now the Saints sit at 2-3, only one game away from .500. Their opponent this week in the Cincinnati Bengals is also 2-3 and have been hit or miss in the run game so far this season. With that, we can take a look at how the Saints’ run defense and Bengals’ run offense has performed so far this season, and what we should expect from these two units when they match up against each other on Sunday.
How have these two units performed this season?
As I previously mentioned, the Bengals’ run game has been extremely hit-or-miss so far this season. All-in-all though, they rank near the bottom of the league in most major rushing statistics aside from fumbles. They rank 7th to last in rushing yards (459), 2nd to last in rushing touchdowns (2), 3rd to last in yards per carry (3.3), tied for 5th least first downs via the rush (25), and are dead last in rushing first down percentage (18.1%). As I said, they rank best in the league in one primary rushing stat, that being fumbles, tied for the lowest with 0 with only 5 other teams. These low production numbers are not due to low usage rates either, as they rank 11th in rushing attempts with 138 on the season.
On the other side of the ball, the Saints’ run defense has really picked up lately and has been more effective in not only efficiency control but stopping the run at a higher rate. While they do rank 10th in rushing yards allowed (650) and 16th in yards per carry allowed (4.5), they have only allowed 4 rushing touchdowns (13th lowest), 28 rushing first downs (6th lowest) and a 19.3% rushing first down rate (3rd lowest). All of this is on the 8th highest rushing attempts against them at 145 so far this season, so their effectiveness is absolutely at a high level so far, despite the high rushing yards total.
What should we expect from these units on Sunday?
All of the statistical and eye test measures point towards the Saints likely dominating this specific matchup, as their run defense has been effective at holding rushers to small gains aside from a few big chunk plays thrown in. With how ineffective the Bengals’ run game has been to date, especially against teams like the New York Jets, odds are the Saints have the upper hand in this department. While this does not necessarily mean they are going to hold the Bengals completely out of the run game, they will more than likely hold them under 90 or 100 rushing yards on the day.
Not including the 69-yard Kenneth Walker touchdown last week, the Saints held the Seahawks to 90 rushing yards on the day. With that in mind, we will see what happens this weekend, but odds are the Saints should be able to prevail in this specific side of the ball.