Al Behrman/Associated Press
While we might not know for sure who will actually partake in the contest against the Indianapolis Colts, the most pertinent things to watch on the Cincinnati Bengals' end are rather obvious. Here are three keys.
Bengals Offensive Line vs. Indianapolis Pass Rush
To be frank, Cincinnati's offensive line was a mess against Arizona. It was not all bad, but overall it was not an encouraging sign for a unit that needs to protect a quarterback who in the past has been a bit jittery in the pocket.
Thursday presents a good test for the unit as a whole, as well as the critical depth. The Colts come equipped with a variety of sound pass-rushers such as Robert Mathis, Bjoern Werner and more.
To Andy Dalton's credit, he did look mostly comfortable in the pocket under pressure against Arizona. But until that sort of calm play becomes a lengthy trend, this will continue to be something to watch.
Bengals Secondary vs. Indianapolis Quarterbacks
This one has a few layers to it.
For one, there is a serious roster battle going on in the Bengals secondary that will finally have an answer sooner rather than later. Names such as Chris Lewis-Harris might be fighting for a limited number of spots.
In addition to that, there is only so much playing time to go around, which would explain why someone like Dre Kirkpatrick was still in the contest last week deep into the fourth quarter.
This is all helped by the fact that the Colts are deep under center. Luck is a known commodity, but don't forget veteran signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck is right behind him and can still provide a quality test to fringe Cincinnati defensive backs.
Bengals X-Factor of the Week: Russell Bodine
Normally an X-factor is reserved for someone who can decide the fate of a game on his own, but let's take a different route for at least this week.
Rookie center Russell Bodine was miserable last week. Bottom line. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he has ranked No. 72 out of 76 players at his position this preseason, with his performance against Arizona actually his lowest grade to date.
It seems after trading up for him in the draft, the Bengals staff are dead-set on using him as a starter right away, but the North Carolina product has struggled with snaps right on up the list this preseason.
Bodine's performance—the safe bet is he gets a lengthy look again this week—decides a number of things. Whether he can come around impacts the entire offense, and it might also mean the staff is forced to start veteran guard Mike Pollak at the spot instead.
Many players are under pressure Thursday, and more than a few have a roster spot on the line, but few can match the scrutiny and expectations of Bodine with the clock ticking.