Cincinnati Bengals vs. Indianapolis Colts: Preview
In essence, this is a matchup between polar opposites.
The Colts are one of the most efficient, well-oiled machines in the National Football League and have been for years.
Despite their rash of injuries this season, anytime you have No. 18 lining up under center, that's a tactical advantage that perhaps no other team in the NFL can match.
Indianapolis, who currently sits with a 5-3 record, is third in the league in scoring, averaging 27.1 points per game, and have also cashed in on 28 out of their last 29 red zone drives.
On the other hand, the Bengals come limping into town with a five-game losing streak, and at 2-6, are essentially playing for little more than professional pride.
Granted, all five losses have been by less than eight points, but here's an ugly stat: The Bengals have been outscored in the first half of games this season 100-63, whereas the Colts have "foot on the gas pedal" tendencies, doing so to the tune of 118-59.
Playing "catch up" may get them back into ballgames against the Steelers and Falcons, but could be a harder task against the Colts.
Perhaps the biggest problem starts up front on the lines. Cincinnati doesn't rush the passer whatsoever, as indicated by the team's total seven sacks so far this season.
Anytime you give Peyton Manning that much more time to throw, the end result could be problematic, regardless of how banged up the wide receiver core is (Austin Collie is expected to miss another game with his concussion).
On the flip side, Indianapolis has eight sacks in its three home games and are facing a Cincinnati team that absorbed four sacks in the Monday night loss to Pittsburgh.
Carson Palmer looked better against the Steelers than he had in the prior weeks, but a majority of his yardage was gained when he was well behind and forced to pass.
Additionally, outside of Terrell Owens, production has been inconsistent.
Chad Ochocinco has served as nothing more than a high-profile decoy; the Bengals don't seem to look for Jermaine Gresham down the middle of the field very much; and Jordan Shipley has had his moments, but he had the crucial drop on fourth down Monday night.
In terms of running the ball, Indianapolis has had its struggles, ranking 25th in the league, and with Joseph Addai out, Donald Brown and Javarris James will get the bulk of the work.
This represents a bit of a break, at least on paper, for the 23rd-ranked Bengals rush defense.
When Cincinnati tries to run the ball, it will be going against one of the worst run defenses in the league (Colts are 29th), but the problem is, the Bengals are never consistent in the way they mix the run and the pass.
I hope this potential matchup problem is utilized, but I won't be surprise if it's not, due to choice or circumstances (i.e., the Colts getting a big lead early on, thus forcing the Bengals to pass).
My prediction? Colts 31-21.
The Bengals aren't getting horribly outplayed by anyone, but always seem to make a few crucial mistakes per game that hurt them in the end
Against winning football teams, that won't fly.
Assuming neither running game is a huge factor, it comes down to Peyton Manning vs. Carson Palmer, and I think it's safe to say we know who will win that battle.
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