Preseason or not, there's never a time not to watch Andrew Luck sling the ball all over the field. Thursday night's contest between the Bengals and the Colts will give you one more chance to do so.
The regular season is almost here, and NFL franchises are almost out of tuneups.
Cincinnati has fared reasonably well in preseason action so far. They are 2-1 after suffering a 27-13 loss to the Packers in their last matchup.
Indianapolis hasn't fared quite as well, but that was expected. They defeated the Rams 38-3 in Week 1, but have suffered defeats to Pittsburgh and Washington since then.
This matchup will be fun to watch. Players are dueling for their team's final roster spots, and both of these teams will be competitive this season.
Let's breakdown every inch of this one.
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis
When: Thursday, August 30 at 7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: Local 12 (Cincinnati) and MY-INDYTV 23 (Indianapolis)
Live Stream: Preseason Live
Listen: WCKY-AM 1530, 102.7 WEBN-FM (Cincinnati) or WLHK FM 97.1 (Indianapolis)
Betting Line: Indianapolis (-2.5) per espn.com
What's at Stake?
As the regular season inches closer, both of these teams continue to find their way. The Bengals enter Thursday's game with a 2-1 record, while the Colts are currently 1-2 through three games.
The Bengals have been in Indy's position before. Last season they threw rookie quarterback Andy Dalton into the fire, and the Colts will be doing the same with prized rookie Andrew Luck this season.
Luck has looked excellent so far. With a quarterback rating hovering around 100, and 514 passing yards, he's exactly what the Colts were looking for. He will face another stiff test against the Bengals on Thursday.
The Bengals are still trying some new things as well. Cedric Benson is no longer their No. 1 running back, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis is currently banged up. That will give players like Cedric Peerman and Dan Herron time to shine in the backfield.
Nothing is technically at stake in this one in a team sense, but there is a lot at stake for individual players. Positions are up for grabs, and depth charts are being solidified.
With roster cuts getting more difficult, the time is now for certain players to step up.
Bengals Injury Report (via CBSSports.com)
Out: DL Carlos Dunlap (knee), CB Leon Hall (Achilles)
Questionable: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot), TE Jermaine Gresham (knee), LB Rey Maualuga (knee), RB Bernard Scott (hand), DB Dre Kirkpatrick (leg)
Colts Injury Report (via CBSSports.com)
Out: LB A.J. Edds (knee), LB Pat Angerer (foot), WR Griff Whalen (foot)
Doubtful: DL Josh Chapman (knee), WR Austin Collie (concussion)
Questionable: DL Robert Mathis (shoulder), DL Cory Redding (knee)
What They're Saying
Indianapolis Star reporter Phillip Wilson gives us this quote from new Colts cornerback Vontae Davis. As Wilson states, Davis was acquired by Indy on Sunday for two draft picks:
“I feel like it’s a different opportunity,” the 2009 first-round selection said today. “What happened in Miami is in the past. Now I’m a Colt and my biggest thing is moving forward and trying to get better as a player.”
That's encouraging to hear for Colts fans. Davis was touted coming out of Illinois in 2009, but he's failed to live up to expectations. The Colts' defense was middle of the road, at best, last year. Adding Davis didn't make a huge splash, but it's a step in the right direction.
Hearing the positive attitude from Davis is good news—a change of scenery could be all he needs to find himself again.
"We couldn't keep the quarterback from extending drives and scoring," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "We didn't do a good job of recognizing a mobile quarterback and getting him down and strapping him to the ground."
Not only did the team lose, but Aaron Rodgers scrambled his way to two touchdowns.
This could come into play again on Thursday. Luck has sneaky mobility, and he's a better athlete than you might think. If the Bengals defense cannot contain him, he is smart enough to break containment, and fast enough to make it hurt.
Bengals Key Addition: Mohamed Sanu, WR
The Bengals' offense has a chance to be very good this season, and adding Mohamed Sanu made that an even better possibility.
Last year, Cincinnati had A.J. Green on the outside. He was dynamic as a rookie. Don't expect Sanu to match his blistering pace, but he will turn out to be a very solid No. 2 option.
This preseason, Sanu has four catches for 25 yards and a touchdown. He's got the length to create mismatches on the perimeter, and the speed to stretch the defense vertically.
The Bengals needed a second option at times last year. It was too easy to key on Green, and Jerome Simpson, while he serves his suspension, isn't around until Week 4.
Sanu must have a big impact in Cincinnati's aerial attack. I'm not thinking Green-like production, but 800 yards and five touchdowns is a reasonable estimate for the former Scarlet Knight.
Colts Key Addition: T.Y. Hilton, WR
I could sing Luck's praises some more, but I'll let his game do that on Thursday. Instead let's focus on Indy's Energizer Bunny.
T.Y. Hilton is exceptionally quick. At only 5'8'', he uses his agility and explosive first step to create separation at the line of scrimmage. His size doesn't allow him to dominate a defense on the outside, but he knows how to find the soft spot in coverage.
So far Hilton has nine catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. He also had one rush for nine yards. Look for the Colts to continue finding different ways to get him the football.
Giving Luck a few "gadget" players is a good idea. It gives the Colts' offense different layers and the versatility they need to succeed.
Hilton's size works to his advantage. Think of him as a receiver-version of Darren Sproles, although he may be even lighter on his feet.
Key Matchup: Andrew Luck vs. Bengals' Front Seven
I already mentioned the issues Cincy's front seven had with Rodgers, and Luck will present the same difficulties.
The only difference comes with experience, and Luck is still learning the NFL game.
It will be interesting to see how Lewis' defense adjusts their containment. The talent is certainly there, but they must be disciplined enough to hold their assignments and aggressive enough to shed blockers.
Luck is already acquainted with elite players in the defensive box. He faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 of preseason and performed extremely well, given that it was his second time in an NFL uniform.
Look for the Bengals to test Luck's moxie with pressure from all angles. He withstood the heat against Pittsburgh, but everyone will want a piece of this year's darling rookie.
Each side has something to prove, and that will make this matchup worth watching.
Bengals 24, Colts 21