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Advanced Stats: QB A.J. Dalton, Bengals' stellar pass-rushing trio

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The Buffalo Bills are underdogs on the road against a 1-3 Bengals team that's looked revitalized the past two weeks in a narrow loss to the Packers in Green Bay and demolition of the Browns in Cleveland.

Regardless of which way you examine him, A.J. Green is really, really good. But you already knew that.

Let's break down a few other intriguing advanced stats to preview the Bengals.

(Stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders.)

Bengals' offense

Dalton started the 2017 with two brutal performances that led to a passer rating of 47.2, the lowest among 33 qualifying quarterbacks. Since then, after now former offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was fired, the seventh-year signal-caller has experienced a significant turnaround.

He's completed 46 of 57 passes (80.7 percent) at 8.74 yards per attempt with six touchdowns an no picks. That equates to a 138.2 passer rating, the second-best in football over the past two weeks.

Interestingly, Dalton's average depth of target (aDOT) was 9.4 yards in Week One and Week Two combined. In Week Three and Week Four? Just 7.0, the third-lowest among qualifying quarterbacks. For context, Dalton's aDOT was 8.4 in 2016.

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New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has emphasized the short passing game for Dalton to get the ball out of his hands quickly. And so far that philosophical shift has worked wonderfully.

Another important Dalton note, not from Pro Football Focus: Joe Goodberry, a Western New York native, longtime Twitter friend of mine and writer for Bengals Wire, developed a proprietary Dalton-related metric years ago. It tracks how the quarterback plays against what Goodberry calls "common" and "uncommon" opponents.

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Goodberry has found that Dalton struggles against "common" opponents, which are categorized by teams that played against the quarterback the previous season or earlier that same season as opposed to "uncommon" opponents that don't fall into either one of those categories.

Here are Dalton's updated figures, courtesy of Goodberry:

Common

19 wins, 24 losses | 900 completions, 1,495 attempts (60.2 percent) | 10,027 yards (6.7 YPA), 51 TDs (3.4 percent), 45 INTs (3.0 percent) | 79.0 Passer Rating

Uncommon

29 wins, 9 losses, 2 ties | 860 completions, 1,263 attempts (67.0 percent) | 10,248 yards (8.0) 78 TDs (6.1 percent), 29 INTs (2.3 percent) | 102.1 Passer Rating

Because the Bills played the Bengals in 2016, they are considered a common opponent for Dalton this season.

Even last year, Buffalo was a common for Dalton due to the their 2015 meeting. While A.J. Green was injured early which certainly hurt the Bengals' passing game, Dalton completed just 55.8 percent of his throws with one touchdown and two interceptions en route to a 70.9 passer rating.

The Bills were an uncommon opponent when they faced Dalton in 2015. In that contest, he completed 66.7 percent of his passes, had three touchdowns without a pick and a passer rating of 118.6 in Cincinnati's win.

One other thing to mention, something I should have been including in this article series since the start of the season... the DVOA of each unit for the Bills and their upcoming opponent.

DVOA is Football Outsiders' all-encompassing efficiency metric. Here's the site's short definition of its foundational stat.

"DVOA measures a team's efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent."

ESPN's Bill Barnwell – a former Football Outsiders staffer – recently explained DVOA this way:

"The stat measures a team's success on a given play (through points and yards gained or lost) versus what would have been expected after accounting for the down, distance, game situation and quality of the opponent."

Currently, the Bengals' offensive DVOA is -15.2, which is the 25th-best in the NFL. The Bills have the 23rd-best offensive DVOA at -5.2.

Bengals defense

Despite their 1-3 record, Cincinnati has proven to have a formidable defense, especially up front. Their defensive line group has been anchored by three players; Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and rookie Carl Lawson.

Together, the trio has combined for 57 quarterback pressures (a sack, hit, or hurry).

Their individual breakdowns:

  • Geno Atkins - 19 pressures (3 sacks, 4 hits, 12 hurries)
  • Carl Lawson - 22 pressures (3 sack, 3 hits, 16 hurries)
  • Carlos Dunlap - 16 pressures (1 sack, 1 hit, 14 hurries)

And those 57 pressures have accounted for 60.6 percent of the Bengals' 94 quarterback pressures through four games. Limiting their production will be a tall task but vital for the Bills' offensive line.

Cincinnati's defensive DVOA is currently -14.4, the ninth-best in the NFL. Buffalo owns the top defensive DVOA in the league right now at -21.2.

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