Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (-3, 50.5 o/u)
It’s been a season of streaks for Andrew Luck and the Colts (4-2). After an 0-2 start, including a home loss to the Eagles, the Colts have reeled off four straight wins. The Colts lead the NFL in most major offensive categories, including passing (328.7 yards per game), total offense (444 yards per game), and scoring (31.5 points per game). The Indy rushing game (16th in the NFL with 115.3 yards per game) has been getting steady production from the one-two punch of Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. Richardson had a lethargic start to his Colts career last season, but is finally showing signs of life, averaging 3.2 yards on 87 carries this season. The former Alabama superstar also has two rushing TDs.
Though the offense gets all the attention in Indy, the Colts defense has started to hold its own. After giving up an average of 30.5 points in the first two weeks, Greg Manusky’s crew has given up just 18.5 points over Indy’s four game winning streak. Two of those games have been against the lowly Jaguars and Titans, though, and tonight, they will face a stiffer test.
The Bengals are top ten in both total offense (397 yards per game) and scoring (26.8 points per game). Despite a rash of injuries on offense in the last few weeks, it has been the Bengal defense that has dropped the ball. Cincinnati started 3-0, giving up just 11 points per game, and found themselves atop most pundits’ power rankings. Obviously uncomfortable with that kind of success, the Bengals then got trounced by the Patriots after their bye week (41-17) and gave up 430 yards and 37 points to the Panthers (in a rare tie).
The Bengals defense knows that it has something to prove after its last two outings. The first step in shutting down the Colts’ high-octane offense will be to play more disciplined football. In the wake of the penalty-ridden tie against the Panthers, nose tackle Domato Peko said, “The way we played today, we had way too many penalties. It’s probably the most penalties I’ve seen on our defensive side of the ball in years. That’s something that’s on us that we have to clean up as a unit and as men.”
While the Colts defense has looked vulnerable at times this year, the Bengals will be hard-pressed to put up a lot of points today. They will be missing their top two receivers, A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, and tight end Tyler Eifert. Cincinnati signed WR Greg Little this week, and the former Cleveland Brown figures to see some snaps in his first game, playing behind Mohammed Sanu and Brandon Tate. The good news for the Bengals is that running back Giovani Bernard will be in the line-up. Bernard suffered a shoulder injury part way through the Carolina game and had to leave temporarily. But he returned for OT and has practiced all week.
The Colts enter the game as three point favorites. The over/under sits at 50.5. Knowing the Bengals’ recent struggles on D and Luck’s penchant for posting big numbers, the over looks tempting. But keep in mind that Cincinnati averages just 20 points on the road and will be missing their best offensive player in A.J. Green.