The Cincinnati Bengals host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday and one match up that could overwhelmingly favor Cincinnati is their pass protection against the Raiders pass rush.
Identified during one of our previews earlier this week, the Oakland Raiders have the league's worst scoring defense, allowing over 30 points/game, including 135 points in the last three games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints.
Some of it just bad defense. During the month of November, Oakland has allowed 507 yards rushing, including a 251-yard effort by Buccaneers rookie Doug Martin, scoring four touchdowns on the ground. Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens offense scored 48 (one touchdown via Jacoby Jones 105-yard kickoff return) two weeks ago. Last week the New Orleans Saints highlighted an effective balanced offense with a 5.4 yard/rush average (151 yards) and quarterback Drew Brees throwing three touchdowns for a 134.6 passer rating. That's a 45 points allowed per game average this month; a month in which Oakland has gone 0-3.
Yet if you look deeper into Oakland's issues, you can simplistically take one point of emphasis lacking in the Raiders defense. Pass rush.
"There is no pass rush to speak of," said Levi Damien with SB Nation's Silver and Black Pride. "The sack leaders are Richard Seymour (3.0) who is out for his third straight game, and Matt Shaughnessy (2.5) who hasn’t had a sack since week five. The Raiders are calling for a lot more linebacker blitzes but the result is usually a completion to the man the linebacker left uncovered. The Raiders didn’t have a single interception until five games into the season due in part to both starting corners being injured. Although, when they do turn the ball over, they have scored on the ensuing possession most of the time."
Despite posting a league-low 11 quarterback sacks, the Raiders have the league's No. 27 pass rush according to Pro Football Focus. The Cincinnati Bengals on the other hand sport the league's second-best pass protection unit, according to the same PFF grades. Starting left guard Clint Boling is ranked No. 1 in the NFL with an 11.1 pass blocking score; Kevin Zeitler ranks No. 9 with a 7.1. Tackles Andre Whitworth and Andre Smith rank inside the top-20 in pass protection.