Cincinnati @ Indianapolis
Recommended Wager: IND -7.5
Cincinnati Bengals: (Week 9 bye)
-WR AJ Green (hamstring) was injured week 5. He is limited in practice.
-Slot CB Mackensie Alexander (ribs/hamstring) was INACTIVE weeks 4 and 5. He returned to practice this week as limited.
IR: TE CJ Uzomah (Achilles – Season Ending), RG Xavier Su’a-Filo (ankle), DT Josh Tupou (opt out), DT D.J. Reader (quad – season ending), DE Sam Hubbard (elbow), CB Trae Waynes (pectoral)
Indianapolis Colts: (Week 7 bye)
-TE Mo Alie-Cox (knee) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
-LT Anthony Castonzo (rib) was INACTIVE week 5 after not practicing all week. He is now practicing in full.
-DE Denico Autry (ankle/knee) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
-LB Darius Leonard (groin) was injured week and INACTIVE week 5. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
IR: WR Parris Campbell (PCL), WR Michael Pittman (leg), RB Marlon Mack (achilles — season ending), DT Sheldon Day (knee), CB Marvell Tell (opt out), CB Rolan Milligan (opt out), S Malik Hooker (achilles — season ending)
Rooke QB Joe Burrow has been.. well, a rookie. He looked solid coming into week 5 as PFF’s 7th highest graded QB, but was utterly destroyed by a blitz happy and dominant Ravens defense last week. On the season, he’s completing 65.2% of his passes, good for 6.3 yards per attempt. The biggest problem with the Bengals offensive is their line, which sucks something awful. Burrow is getting rid of the ball in a relatively quick 2.42 seconds, but he’s under pressure on 39% of his drop backs. The Bengals need to address the offensive line, not just for Burrow’s development, but also his physical well being. Burrow’s top receivers by targets have been Tyler Boyd (39), AJ Green (33), Tee Higgins (29), and RB Joe Mixon (20). Profootballdoc thought there was a chance Green (hamstring) would end up on IR, so it’s a bit surprise that he’s practicing this week, but I’d still expect him to miss this game. Boyd is PFF’s 7th highest graded receiver, while Higgins has shown some promise, but is only catching 57% of his passes. There’s clear that there’s talent in Cincinnati, but there’s too much weaknesses for them to be effective. Their offense is 27th in the league in both DVOA and EPA/play.
The Bengals projected to have one of the worst defenses in football, so it’s a bit of a surprise that they’re actually middle of the road in some advanced stats. EPA/play puts them at 13th in the league, while DVOA has them at 14th. That said, they’ve had a relatively easy schedule of offenses (LAC -> CLE -> PHI -> JAX) before getting crushed by the Ravens. Football Outsider’s predictive DAVE stat puts them at 25th in the league, so expecting them to regress from average to terrible is fair. Their pass DVOA (9th best in football) and PFF coverage grade (70.1) points to a solid defensive backfield — William Jackson has been a solid corner and Jessie Bates has been one of the best safeties in football. Outside of that is a lot of struggling, and they’ll be without one of their best pass rushers (Sam Hubbard, elbow) and slot CB (Mackensie Alexander, ribs/hamstring)
The Colts on offense have also struggled, ranking 25th in DVOA and 24th in EPA/play. Phillip Rivers is completing 70.8% of his passes and gaining 8.0 yards per attempt, but he’s thrown 5 INTs (only 4 TDs) and PFF has deemed 5.2% of his passes “turnover worthy,” a signal that he’s done a poor job at not throwing the ball to opposing defenses. His top receivers by targets are TY Hilton (32), Zach Pascal (20), RB Nyheim Hines (20) and TE Mo Alie-Cox (14). Hilton and Pascal have both had tough seasons, while Alie-Cox may miss due to a knee issue. The offensive line is one of the best in football and should get back LT Anthony Castonzo (rib), who missed last week. Their running game is primarily lead by rookie Jonathan Taylor.
The Colts defense is where we’ll hopefully make our money. They are flat out dominant, ranking 1st in both DVOA and EPA/play. DeForest Buckner has been one of the best defensive tackles in football — his 18 pressures are 3rd most among all interior lineman. Al-Quadin Muhammad, Denico Autry, and Justin Houston are all solid pass rushers as well. They are likely without LB Darious Leonard, who is one of the better linebackers in football. Their secondary is lead by Xavier Rhodes, who has the 6th best PFF grade amongst all cornerbacks. I like the Colts to make life tough for Burrow and his poor offensive line while Rhodes should be able to shut down Tee Higgins.