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Week 16 Lions scouting report: If Joe Mixon returns, should Detroit fear the Bengals?

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Could Joe Mixon’s return provide the spark the Bengals need?

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With the Lions in desperate need of two wins to finish the season, the first matchup seems to be in their favor. While the Lions are winners of two straight, the Cincinnati Bengals are losers of three in a row and have just been completely embarrassed in the past two weeks. They’re officially out of the playoff race and their head coach may already be jumping ship.

But let’s do a little more in-depth analysis on the Cincinnati Bengals to see where everything went wrong.

Offseason recap

Key additions: RG Andre Smith (switching positions from RT to RG), LB Kevin Minter (IR)

Key losses: LT Andrew Whitworth, RG Kevin Zeitler, RB Rex Burkhead, DT Domata Peko, DE Margus Hunt

Trades: Acquired DE Chris Smith from the Jaguars for a 2018 conditional draft pick

Key draft picks:

  • WR John Ross (Round 1) (IR)
  • RB Joe Mixon (Round 2)
  • DE Jordan Willis (Round 3)
  • LB Carl Lawson (Round 4)

2017 season results (5-9)

Week 1 - vs. Ravens - Lost, 0-20
Week 2 - vs. Texans - Lost, 9-13
Week 3 - at Packers - Lost, 24-27 (OT)
Week 4 - at Browns - Won, 31-7
Week 5 - vs. Bills - Won, 20-16
Week 7 - at Steelers - Lost, 14-29
Week 8 - vs. Colts - Won, 24-23
Week 9 - at Jaguars - Lost, 7-23
Week 10 - at Titans - Lost, 20-24
Week 11 - at Broncos - Won, 20-17
Week 12 - vs. Browns - Won, 30-16
Week 13 - vs. Steelers - Lost, 20-23
Week 14 - vs. Bears - Lost, 7-33
Week 15 - at Vikings - Lost, 7-34

Reasons to be optimistic

Simple: The Bengals are bad. Four of their five wins have come against bottom-four AFC teams, two of which are via the Browns. And in the past two weeks, two NFC North opponents have absolutely slaughtered the Bengals. Head coach Marvin Lewis is reportedly on his way out (though he denies such reports) and it appears the team has already given up on him.

But more specifically, Cincy’s offense is a mess. By DVOA, the Bengals offense ranks 25th (26th in pass offense, 21st in run offense). They’ve only scored more than 24 points twice all year, and they’re averaging just 16.6 points per game (29th).

Despite a defense full of talented individuals, their entire unit as a whole is nothing special. They rank 18th in defensive DVOA (one spot lower than the Lions), and have recently been trending in the wrong direction. In the past two weeks, the Bengals have allowed a passer rating of above 110 in consecutive games, and allowed an average of 178 rushing yards and 4.94 yards per carry.

The Lions, on the other hand, are coming off one of their best team performances. Their run defense played one of its best games of the season, holding Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to just 38 yards on 12 carries. Meanwhile, the Lions actually had some semblance of a running game (20 rushes, 91 yards), despite a depleted offensive line.

Reasons to be pessimistic:

There’s not a lot going right with the Bengals this year, aside from the play of two rookies.

On defense, outside linebacker Carl Lawson has been a pass rushing force, tallying 7.5 sacks in 14 games—and just one start. Pro Football Focus gives him a respectable 81.5 overall grade, good for 35th among all edge defenders. Combine Lawson with the always dangerous Geno Atkins (9.0 sacks), and you’ve got a pass rush that could give Matthew Stafford some trouble on Sunday.

On offense, Joe Mixon has been a force to be reckoned with. He’s averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry, but he runs tough and is difficult to bring down. Mixon has missed the past two games due to a concussion, but he was a full participant in the last practice heading into Week 15, suggesting he’s ready to return to the lineup this week.

Oh, and there’s that A.J. Green guy, who currently ranks 12th in receiving yards (980) and t-sixth in receiving touchdowns (8).

Overall

The Bengals have a lot of talented individuals on their team, really on both sides of the ball. But for whatever reason (coaching), they haven’t been able to pull it all together for years now. It was only a matter of time before the wheels came completely off, and that is where the team lies today.

Their pass rush could certainly keep them in this game on Sunday, given that the Lions are beat up on the offensive line and have been a little more turnover prone than usual. The return of Mixon could also help the Bengals manage the pace of the game, but the rookie running back hasn’t been as efficient as it seems.

With the Detroit Lions offense rolling and the defense coming off one of its best performances of the year, there’s really little excuse for Detroit to drop this game, even if it’s played in poor, cold conditions in Cincinnati.