The Colts, like many teams the Bengals have seen in 2013, go with a base 3-4 defense. Though the Colts have 30 sacks (18th), more than half of those (15.5) come from one player – Robert Mathis – and in the 3-4 scheme, he is a line backer. Of the 30 sacks, the Colts line has account for just 7 of them (23.3%). On top of the low sack numbers, they are also not effective stopping the run.
The Colts rank 29th in the NFL against the run, surrendering 128.6 ypg. The d-line, however, is the strength of the Bengals defense. Unlike the Colts, the Bengals rank 9th in the NFL with 36 sacks, 26.5 – or 88.3% – come from the line and mainly off just 4 man rushes. The beauty of the Bengals line is the depth. The Bengals lost the best DT in the league (Atkins) and still have the 6th ranked defense, 8th ranked run defense and they feature 5 lineman (4 active) that have at least 2.5 sacks – the Colts have just 2 lineman that fit that description and just 4 players overall.
Big advantage for the Bengals on the d-line.
The strength of the Colts defense is clearly the line backer position – mainly a guy named Mathis. Mathis leads the NFL with 15.5 sacks and accounts for more than 50% of the team’s sack total (30). Mathis will be a challenge for the Bengals, but they have held up well against other elite pass rushers (Peppers, Suggs etc). Of the Colts 30 sacks, their line backing corps accounts for 23 of the 30 (76.7%).
The Bengals line backing corps has been a pleasant surprise this year. Burfict has not only proven last year was not a fluke, he has proven to be one of the best line backers in the game. The Bengals don’t get much pressure on the QB from their line backers (7.0 sacks), but that is mainly a result of the d-line being so good that Zimmer needs to bring more than just the 4 lineman. My biggest concern on Sunday is the Colts getting Fleener matched up on Maualuga.
Believe it or not, Maualuga has exactly 0 passes defensed in 2013. If the Colts see Maualuga on Fleener, expect for them to try and take advantage of the matchup. It may come as a surprise, but I am giving the Bengals the advantage here as well. Mathis isn’t really a “line backer”, he is really a one-trick pony that rushes the passer – very well I might add, but he has just 44 tackles, 15.5 of which are sacks…aka he isn’t helping much in the run game or pass coverage.
Lastly, the Colts are ranked 29th against the run – at least half of that blame has to go on the line backing corps.