By now, everyone even remotely aware of the NFL knows that the Colts' all-world quarterback, Peyton Manning, is on the shelf with a problematic neck injury. The literal pain in the neck has required multiple surgeries, and it's unclear whether the elder (though not eldest) Manning will return.
Consequently, the perennial Super Bowl contender in Indy has been reduced to a winless stain on the gridiron landscape with youngster Curtis Painter now under center.
The Bengals, on the other hand, have been a pleasant surprise.
Though the 3-2 record isn't going to set anyone's skirts aflame, Cinci has been getting it down with the league's best defense (no, seriously) in terms of yards per game and a rookie QB in Andy Dalton who's been a semi-revelation in his professional debut. No one will confuse his first half with the one posted by his fellow rookie down in Carolina, Cam Newton, but all that means is Dalton hasn't been historic.
With Cincinnati deploying a run-heavy attack to ease the former TCU Horned Frog's transition to the next level, the Colts flat-out struggling and good-to-great defenses on both sides, points figured to be hard to come by.
And that's precisely what we've seen.
However, with these five adjustments, the Indianapolis Colts could eke out their first W:
1. More Donald Brown in the Running Game
This one hurts because I flirted with the idea of adding Brown in one of my fantasy league, but ultimately decided against it. The former UCONN Huskie has been far more effective than Delone Carter, running with more energy and explosiveness.
Go with the hot hand...or legs, I guess.
2. Rein in Curtis Painter
That might look odd because the Colt QB hasn't been stretching the field vertically, but even a few of the modest throws he's been asked to make have been scary. Given the conservative play-calling by the Bengals on the other side and the way the Indy D is playing, there's no reason to let the former Purdue Boilermaker toss the game away.
3. Bring More Heat on Defense
Again, the Bengals are being relatively conservative on offense. That would seem to imply they don't have the utmost confidence in quarterback Andy Dalton to handle the most difficult NFL situations. And what's more difficult than reading and dealing with blitzes?
4. Stop Cedric Benson
Do you see the theme?
Cincinnati has been throwing a bit, but the Bengals have also been featuring heavy doses of running back Benson and for good reason. The workhorse has been moving the pigskin effectively and, as long as he's doing that, Cinci's got no reason to stop which makes it very tough to exploit a rookie quarterback.
5. Devote More Attention to A.J. Green
I'm no expert, but the only guy who is hurting the Colts in the down-field passing game is one A.J. Green. Yet another rookie, Green has a touchdown and seems to be the only threat to catch a pass of more than 15 yards.
In other words, even if it takes two sets of eyes, Indy needs to blanket him to make harassing Dalton even easier.