As the 49ers prepare to head to Cincinnati, I thought I would put together a piece about how the Bengals stack up against the 49ers from a statistical standpoint in some key areas through the first 12 games of the season. I’ll label the stat, post the totals, and then have the league rank in parentheses.
Points For - 331 (7th)
Total Yards - 4,2193 (14th)
Turnovers - 19 (24th)
Passing Yards - 2940 (10th)
Rushing Yards - 1327 (17th)
Net Yards per Pass Attempt - 7.0 (7th)
Net Yards per Drive - 30.4 (20th)
3rd Down Conversion rate - 40.8% (14th)
Red Zone Conversion rate (RZ trips ending with a TD) - 69.7 (3rd)
Now let’s take a look at how the 49ers defense stacks up in these areas
Points Allowed - 278 (20th)
Total Yards Allowed - 3833 (6th)
Turnovers Forced - 14 (17th)
Passing Yards Allowed - 2461 (4th)
Rushing Yards Allowed - 1372 (18th)
Net Yards per Pass Attempt Allowed - 6.0 (8th)
Net Yards per Drive - 29.7 (4th)
3rd Down Conversion Rate - 37.7% (9th)
Red Zone Conversion Rate - 61.95 (19th)
On paper, the 49ers' defense matches up favorably in some crucial spots, most notably on third down, which is always a critical battle for any given game. In addition, there is an added level of concern surrounding the 49ers' depleted secondary being matched up with the Bengals' explosive receiving corps. Still, the 49ers boasting a top-five passing defense through 12 games is an encouraging sign.
My bigger worry is Bay Area native Joe Mixon and the Cincinnati rushing attack finding a way to exploit a 49ers rushing defense that ranks in the league's bottom half. The Bengals' exceptionally efficient red zone offense raises some level of concern as well, as they have been better than all but two other teams (the 49ers being one) inside the 20-yard line.
Let’s now pivot to the Cincinnati defense
Points Allowed - 267 (12th)
Total Yards Allowed - 4,193 (15th)
Turnovers Forced - 17 (12th)
Passing Yards Allowed - 3083 (27th)
Rushing Yards Allowed - 1110 (4th)
Rushing Yards per Attempt Allowed - 4.1 (11th)
Net Yards per Drive Allowed - 30.8 (10th)
3rd Down Conversion Rate - 39.7% (16th)
Red Zone Conversion Rate - 59.5 (14th)
And finally, the 49ers Offense
Points For - 303 (13th)
Total Yards - 4,381 (12th)
Turnovers - 18 (21st)
Passing Yards - 2,870 (14th)
Rushing Yards - 1511 (7th)
Rush Yards per Attempt - 4.3 (15th)
Net Yards per Drive - 34.0 (11th)
3rd Down Conversion Rate - 37.7% (23rd)
Red Zone Conversion Rate - 75.8% (1st)
While I did write a piece about how the 49ers need to find a way to exploit the Bengals pass defense, the outcome of this game will likely still be largely dependent on how the 49ers fare against a tough rush defense that ranks top five in yards allowed while being 11th in yards per attempt allowed.
The 49ers 3rd down offense has gotten better in recent weeks (save for the Seattle game), and they will have to find a way to win that battle and keep the chains moving against a Bengals defense that has been squarely in the middle of the pack (16th) on the money down.
The statistical matchup I am looking forward to the most in this game will absolutely be the Net yards per Attempt generated by the Bengals offense (ranked 7th) while the 49ers defense is on the field (ranked 8th). If the 49ers can avoid the costly penalties on third down, I really like their chances in this matchup, no matter how talented I believe Cincinnati’s receivers are.
All in all, these teams are relatively close when you break them down statistically, and I think the actual product we will see on the field Sunday will reflect that. A hard-fought, close game between two very talented teams who aren’t quite in “must-win” mode but who are certainly near it.