Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals: 5 Things to Watch in Preseason Finale

Robert DemmettCorrespondent IIISeptember 1, 2011

Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals: 5 Things to Watch in Preseason Finale

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    As the NFL preseason finally comes to a close, teams are trying to decide who will make the final team. In the game between the Bengals and Colts, both teams have to answer more questions—mainly if their quarterbacks can handle the situation they have been thrust into.

    The Colts go into the regular season with some doubt in Peyton Manning's health. While Manning is getting healthy, the team prepares for its Week 1 matchup with the Houston Texans. The Colts go into this season looking as vulnerable as they ever have with Manning at the helm.

    The Bengals are looking to rebuild this season with a rookie quarterback. The Bengals will play a tough division schedule as they do every year, adding onto that the continuing pleas from Carson Palmer to get traded. It does not look like it will be a pretty year in Cincinnati.

    Ahead of that, both teams will finish their preseason Thursday when they face one another. Here are five things to keep an eye on in the game.

1. Is Andy Dalton Ready for NFL Action?

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    Andy Dalton is in a tough spot, to say the least. The rookie quarterback has no big receivers to throw to, a decent running game to utilize and a spotty offensive line to work behind. In addition, he plays in a division with the Ravens and Steelers.

    It could be a rough year for the quarterback from TCU.

    In Dalton's last game, he went 11-of-17 for 130 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. If Dalton can put up similar numbers against Indianapolis, it would give the team and the fans some optimism before the start of the season.

2. Is Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter Ready If Peyton Manning Can't Play?

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    With Peyton Manning's Week 1 status still in doubt, more pressure is placed on the backup quarterback battle between Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter. Painter has been Manning's backup for a couple of years but has yet to show that he can step in and be a suitable NFL quarterback.

    Collins is new to the Indianapolis team and system after arriving last week. Can he learn the system and get in sync with his receivers in time before the Week 1 matchup with Houston?

    The Colts are hoping Manning will be able to play in Week 1, but in case he doesn't they will have trouble at quarterback. Unless one of these players grabs control of the job, the team and fans may be in doubt ahead of their trip to Houston.

3. Can Indianapolis Establish a Running Game?

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    With so much pressure being placed on Manning (with little to no preseason work), Collins or Painter, the Colts' running game needs to step up. If the running game is successful, this will ease the loss at quarterback.

    Joseph Addai and Donald Brown need to show they are capable of taking over a game to both eat the clock to rest the defense and to provide manageable third-down opportunities for the quarterbacks.

    If the running game fails to show anything in the last preseason game, Colts fans may have to worry about their Week 1 fortunes.

4. Can the Bengals' Secondary Respond to Losing Johnathan Joseph?

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    Johnathan Joseph was signed by the Texans this offseason to help their secondary, which was among the worst in the NFL. The Bengals lost a big piece of their secondary with the loss of Joseph.

    The Bengals did pick up Nate Clements, who was cut by the 49ers this offseason, to offset the loss of Joseph. While Clements may be a big name, who knows if he has lost a step or has been bothered by a nagging injury.

    The Bengals need to shut down the Colts' passing game, especially since Manning will not be playing. With the Colts still deciding whom the backup quarterback should be, the Bengals should have ample opportunity to show off their secondary.

5. Can Injuries Be Avoided?

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    The last thing any football team needs before the start of the regular season is an injury. The fourth preseason game usually has starters playing for only a series or two before the second-stringers take the field. With the Bengals being thin already, losing a key player could be very costly.

    The same goes with the Colts. With Manning not 100 percent healthy, keeping the rest of the team on the field will be imperative if the Colts wish to get off to a quick start. A major injury could put the Colts in a position they don't have to be in when they are no longer the favorites of the AFC South.



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