In the NFL, a win is a win. While the Cincinnati Bengals’ 24-23 win over the Indianapolis Colts was nothing to brag about, it counts the same as any other win.
Plus, the Bengals actually played well overall in the win, as evidenced by their weekly Pro Football Focus grades. Andy Dalton finished Week 8 as the third-best quarter with a 125.9 passer rating when kept clean on 19 of 33 dropbacks or 57.6 percent of the time. Dalton performed well when pressured too, with an 80.9 passer rating ranked sixth in the NFL for Week 8.
That’s the good news on the passing game. The bad news is over the past two weeks, A.J. Green has had his two most inefficient games of the season, with a yards per route run (YPRR) of 0.82 this week and 1.21 in Week 7. For the season Green has averaged 2.38 yards per route run, and leading up to Week 7, he had been averaged 2.91, more than 1/2 a yard more per route. He has also caught just six of 12 targets for 68 yards, one score and one interception, resulting in a 60.4 passer rating when targeted.
While Green has struggled as opposing defenses focus on him, that’s allowed Brandon LaFell to emerge and become Dalton's most reliable receiver over the past two weeks, catching eight of 11 targets for 72 yards and one score, resulting in a 120.3 passer rating when targeted.
Offensive guard Trey Hopkins was the only Bengals offensive lineman to not allow a pressure against the Colts. On 32 snaps, Hopkins had a perfect record in pass blocking and earned an overall PFF grade of 76.2, the best among any Bengals offensive lineman in Week 8.
Among all NFL running backs, Joe Mixon recorded the second-best YPRR in Week 8. Averaging 5.69 yards per route, picking up 91 yards on 16 routes. Sunday was his most efficient day as a Bengal. This game brought him to first among Bengals running backs on the season, edging out Giovani Bernard by 1/2 of a yard on average, 2.25 vs. 1.74.
Geno Atkins was the highest-graded defensive tackle by PFF with a 94.4 grade, putting him well into the elite tier of their grading. Atkins earned that grade by performing well in every category. Against the run, Atkins recorded four stops on 17 run snaps, finishing third in the NFL. In the pass rush, he finished fifth by recording seven pressures (1 sack and 6 hurries) on 39 pass snaps, resulting pressure on 14.1 percent of snaps.
Among rookies, Carl Lawson stands out as a pass rusher as the best at creating pressure so far this season. Only Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise and Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett are close to Lawson's 31 total pressures with 24 and 22 respectively, yet they have both played more snaps than Lawson this season (166 for Lawson, 184 for Wise and 174 for Barnett), in case you needed any more examples of Lawson being one of, if not the biggest steal of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Since the bye week, William Jackson has been the NFL's third-most efficient cornerback on a per-snap basis, allowing one reception every 49 snaps in coverage. In terms of yards allowed, Jackson is seventh-best while allowing only 0.06 yards per snap. Jackson is doing this while being the Bengals’ second-most targeted per snap player. He's targeted once every seven passing snaps.
Linebacker Nick Vigil has been a work in progress as the new starting strongside linebacker this year, especially in regards to pass cover. In Week 8, Vigil was targeted six times and allowed just four grabs for 33 yards and one score. On a per-snap basis, he allowed 0.80 yards per snap, which was actually better than his 1.02 yards-per-snap rate coming into Sunday's. On the season Vigil has been targeted 32 times and allowed 25 receptions for 195 yards.
All in all, there’s certainly some areas the Bengals can work on, but you can’t help but be excited about how bright young players like Jackson, Lawson and Mixon are shining, paving the way for a bright future in the Queen City.