PFF Preview: Bengals @ Colts, Wild Card Round
The first of the two Sunday Wild Card Playoff games will feature a regular season rematch in which the Indianapolis Colts (11-5, AFC South Champions, No. 4 seed) shutout the visiting Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1, AFC Wild Card, No. 5 seed) 27-0. The Bengals were without top wideout A.J. Green and running back Jeremy Hill hadn’t yet taken the role of starter. As we’ve seen the Bengals do already this season (vs. Cleveland), expect a much improved team and closer game.
Third-year quarterback Andrew Luck puts up some pretty ridiculous numbers and does so with team success as the Colts return to the playoffs for the third straight year. Year 1 saw a one-and-done while Year 2 saw Luck win his first NFL playoff game (in dramatic fashion) and then follow it up with a stinker on the road against New England. He’ll hope to build on last year’s success but will have to first get out of his recent funk.
Since a monster +5.0 in Week 13, Luck hasn’t graded positively and the stretch includes two red grades. His final quarter of the season grade was -4.4, tied for 24th with Mark Sanchez, and his -5.0 passing grade was 26th, just ahead of Andy Dalton’s -5.1. Digging into the PFF Signature Stats, Luck’s accuracy has fallen by the wayside. His Accuracy Percentage for all throws in Weeks 1-13 was a very solid 75.3, good for 12th in the league, a figure that was just 1.1% from being tied for fifth with Aaron Rodgers. In the final four weeks of the season, Luck’s accuracy plummeted to 65.5% which was 28th in the NFL, just ahead of Drew Stanton and Blake Bortles.
An even bigger drop-off was his Deep Passing accuracy. At 53.7%, Luck was tied for third in the first 3/4 of the season, a figure that was 0.2% better than Rodgers, but in the final four weeks he was 28.6% accurate, 25th in the NFL an behind two of the three Cleveland quarterbacks. Part of this reason could be because of T.Y. Hilton not being 100% and missing a game, but playoff teams typically like to see their team hitting their stride in December and into January, not treading water.
The opposing quarterback will also try to buck the same trend (as his PFF grade was stated earlier), but Dalton is famous for his ups and downs. No better example of this are Weeks 6 and 7 in which he posted a +3.0 followed by a -1.6 against the Colts. That Colts game started a four-game negative streak ending with a -7.7 in Week 10, only to have a career game in Week 11 with +6.8. Why he has inconsistencies like this is a mystery, but based on his track record, his performance in this playoff game is unpredictable. When Dalton does play well, he is very accurate as his Accuracy Percentage in Weeks 1-6 was 77.1, sixth in the NFL. In those games, he also spent the least Time in Pocket in the league with an average time to throw of 2.26 seconds. It was his best stretch of play since the final four games of 2013 in which he was also the quickest to throw in the NFL at 2.32 seconds.
These two teams are truly quarterback driven and whomever is able to break their recent trends will see their team to the next round.
Clint Boling – Speaking of peaking at the right time, Boling is doing just that. The first half of the season did not go well as he was our 54th-rated guard out of 78 with a -5.6. Since then, he is our 10th-rated guard at +10.6.
Jeremy Hill – Having a strong running game is a must for a deep playoff run. Since Hill took over starting duties in Week 9, he has gained the second-most yards after contact with 508 to go along with a league-leading 929 yards and 5.4 avg. His 2.95 Yco/Att is fourth in the NFL.
George Iloka – Iloka is an underrated free safety as he has graded at +9.4 on the year allowing a ridiculous 18.4 QB Rating on throws his way. That stat is tops in the NFL for full-time starters as is his 51.8 Cover Snaps per Reception.
Vincent Ray – Another Bengal playing better in the second half the season, Ray’s improvement is attributed to a position change from middle linebacker (-10.0) to outside linebacker (+4.6) after Week 9.
Carlos Dunlap – Continuing the theme, Dunlap’s second-half performance (since Week 11) has been elite. With a +15.2 PFF grade that ranks second, he is fifth in total pressures (30) and fourth in run stops (10) and Run Stop Percentage (7.9%).
Jack Mewhort – The second-round rookie left guard had a nice season giving up just two sacks and finishing the season with five straight positively-graded run blocking games.
Josh Chapman – The Colts’ nosetackle is another player with a second-half surge as his first half (-7.6, 73r of 78) performance looks like an entirely different big man from his +4.2, 20th of 76, Weeks 9-17 play.
Mike Adams – Adams is having the best season of his career and isn’t getting the attention he deserves. At +11.7, Adams is our seventh-best safety with the second-best coverage grade (+11.6). Quarterbacks throwing at Adams post a 73.4 rating.
Jerrell Freeman – If this game turns into a shootout, Freeman will be valuable as his +10.5 coverage grade is second at the position.
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