Eyes in the Backfield – Bengals

It’s always fun, fun, fun, fun, fun when the Tiggers come to town

Although last week’s game didn’t turn out anything like we expected, it wasn’t a total surprise given the terrible weather conditions.  Oddly enough, this story seemed to get underplayed as the game was discussed during the week.  Worse than an uninspiring offensive performance, however, were the injuries the Horse suffered in the game.  Fortunately for the banged up hometown crew, this week features another of the worst teams in the NFL.  As the Bengals roll up I-74 this week, watch for:


1.  Watch them get off the field.  The Colts are dead last in the NFL in 3rd down defense.  They allow a first down 48.8% of the time.  The three teams immediately in front of them are Cincinnati, Oakland, and Kansas City.  Keep that stat in mind when getting your postseason hopes up.  Although, FO thinks teams that do poorly or well JUST on third down will return to normal, so who knows what is possible?

2.  Watch for hope.  Bob Sanders had full participation in practice on Friday and is questionable for Sunday.  Indy’s defense allow 5.1 yards per play which is 12th in the league.  Solid.  If and when Bob Sanders returns he will help shore up the aforementioned third down defense. 

3.  Watch for a statement.  Some people around town are claiming that Peyton Manning isn’t even the MVP of his own team (Robert Mathis) let alone the entire league.  Crazy talk.  Look for #18 to pad his stats and take charge of the MVP race on Sunday.    

4.  Watch for lots of sacks.  The Colts are 28th in the league with 19 sacks.  17 of them belong to Robert Mathis (9) and Dwight Freeney (8).  Detroit and Cincinnati have allowed the most sacks in 2008.  Look for the Colts to shoot up through the sack rankings over the next two weeks.

5.  Watch them run.  If Manning gets his passing touchdowns early expect to see a lot of Addai and Rhodes. Even more stat padding?  You bet.  The Colts only average 79.8 yards on the ground per game.  Expect them to nearly double that figure against a Bengals team that is allowing 130+ yards on the ground per game. 

6.  Watch for Mrs. Demond Sanders.  She will make her first trip to Lucas Oil after missing most of the season taking care of a newborn.  The reward for her dedicated parenting?  The 1-11 Cincinnati Bengals.  If you happen to see her, you can finally report that there is definitive proof that a woman actually married him.

7.  Watch the smart guy.  Laugh at him, too.  Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard so he’s unaccustomed to failure.  Or at least he was.  In 9 games, the fourth year player has completed 59% of his passes with a passer rating of 68.    

8. Watch and cringe.  The Bengals primary rushers average 2.9 and 2.6 yards per carry.  It doesn’t matter if it is Cedric Benson or Chris Perry, whoever is in the game is going to suck.

9. Watch and wonder.  At some point late in the fourth quarter, with the Colts leading by several touchdowns, ask yourself how Jacksonville managed to lose to this team. Oh wait…that’s not really that hard a question.

10.  Watch for Buster.  The scouting report for the Colts new middle linebacker is that he loves juice and has a hook for a hand.  There is no word as to whether or not he can cover a tight end on passes down the middle of the field.

11.  Watch the Sunday Ticket.  DZ finally got DirecTV to come out and install his service, so no more Slingboxing it come Sunday.  He gets the last month the NFL season for $10, and his new DVR is sweet.  Too bad it only took a month.  He saw a sign advertising 24 hour installation this week, and promptly took a shovel to an unsuspecting billboard.

12.  Watch for 24 points, because you aren’t likely to see them.  The Colts have scored 24 points on offense against just 3 teams all season (they did it to Houston twice).  The Colts rank in the 20s in the NFL in points per game, and the offense hasn’t been right all year.  In fact, they’ve scored less than 20 more times than they scored more than 24 (5 to 4).

13.  Watch the picture clear up.  The Colts remain a game (plus tiebreaker) clear of the Pats for a playoff spot, but it would help to see some teams win some games tomorrow.  Indy is pulling for the Browns, Seahawks, Bills, and Redskins to win.  Dallas can pull one out too, but it really doesn’t matter too much (although I’d rather face Baltimore than Pittsburgh on the road in the playoffs should it come to that).

14. Watch Reggie Wayne.  Since week 6, he has scored one touch down and posted one 100 yard game (both coming against Pittsburgh thanks to the one tipped deep ball).  Reggie has been fighting through a variety of ankle injuries, but there can be no question that his production has slipped dramatically.  He’s gone over 90 yards receiving 5 times this year…but has been held under 50 4 times. Coinciding with #12 on the list, the Colts have gone for at least 24 points 4 of the 5 times Wayne goes for 90 yards (winning all five games).  They have gone under 24 all four times Wayne gets less than 50 (going 2-2).

15.  Watch the guys I used to bitch about.  I rarely ever slag on Charlie Johnson or Tim Jennings any more.  CJ has been very solid since getting moved out of left tackle.  The Colts have been better running left, and the protection has been solid.  Jennings gives up completions (which is normal in the cover 2), but has done a wonderful job of tackling in the run game, and has made enough plays to aquit himself well.

16.  Watch for Tyjuan Hagler to be inactive.  Phil B has followed this story all week.  He claims Hagler isn’t hurt, and was looking forward to starting.  Hagler said he was fine earlier, but then didn’t practice all week with a mysterious ‘knee’ injury.  He knows his time in Indy is coming to a close, and has seemingly lost his last chance to audition for another job.  It seems like the coaches are doing him dirty, but no one is talking.

17.  Watch what could have been.  We all know that Indy should have been put in the AFC North with Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.  It makes sense geographically, and would have created a fun, close division.  For this to happen however, the Dolphins would have had to go South with Jacksonville, and Baltimore would logically have wound up in the East.  For some reason, the owners didn’t want to split up the ‘great’ Buffalo/Miami, NYJets/Miami rivalries and missed a chance to foster new ones.  So instead of Indy squaring off with the Bengals (who aren’t even 2 hours away) twice a year, they meet only occasionally.  It’s a crime.  Mostly, I would just love to have four gimme wins every year, but I suppose we can’t really complain about how it’s worked out in the AFC South, can we?

18.  Watch for the game to be closer than it should.  DZ is sick and tired of predicting blowouts and getting nail biters.  The truth is that the Bengals have played several good teams close this year (NYG and Philly), and may well hang in this game for longer than the should, especially if Saturday and Sanders don’t play.  Colts 21 Bengals 13.  Demond’s prediction:  Colts 31 – Bengals 15