The Colts clash with the Bengals this Monday, a re-match of last year's shootout which featured a gaggle of yards, touchdowns, great throws, and terrible tackling on defense. Last year's contest was staged in Cincy while the battle of the offenses this season will take place in Indy. Kirkendall, SB Nation Cincinnati Bengals blogger, was kind enough to answer Five Good Questions from your truly. You can read Kirkendall's stuff over at Cincy Jungle.
Kirkendall: I wrote about this earlier in the week. Early in the season, the Bengals suffered injuries that hurt the talent on the offensive line and the defense. Some guys have returned and some second-team players have stepped up. There was concern about the offense and the defense was, at times, embarrassing. Things just didn't click. If the offense did well, then the defense played poorly. If the defense played well, then the offense was out of rhythm. Nothing came together.
Now, in a way, I think there's a reversal between Indy and Cincy. The Colts now are dealing with injuries and a defense that ultimately hurts the rhythm of the offense. If you would have asked me last month about this game, I would have said the Bengals were in trouble. Now the offense is playing with confidence returning to their 2005 form with better production from the defense.
Big Blue Shoe: I've often called Carson Palmer the best QB not named Manning or Brady. I always found comments from Steelers fans, stating Roethlisberger was better, both silly and ignorant. I'm one of those that believes Cincinnati would have beaten Pittsburgh if Palmer hadn't gone down in that playoff game. The Steelers simply can't stop him. So, they simply injured him and went on to punk my Colts. How has Palmer developed post-injury? He is still the dominant player, or he is something less than what he was last year?
Kirkendall: There are a lot of people that believe if Palmer finished the game against Pittsburgh, then the Bengals would have won... easily. Now I don't want to take anything away from Big Ben (well, yea, I do), but he's a typical quarterback that manages the game. Quarterbacks like Brady, Palmer and Manning are pure passers that don't manage the game, but win them.
At the start of the season, Palmer wasn't 100%. He guarded his knee by making throws way too early in fear of getting hit low. But each time he was ripped by blitzing linebackers and safeties his confidence grew. Now he's playing at the level he did last season.
Big Blue Shoe: With the way the Colts run defense has played the last three weeks, how many rushing yards do you think you personally could get against them?
Kirkendall: We generally don't run enough to put up gaudy numbers like the Jaguars did. Rudi Johnson is the type of back that if you hit him, he'll usually stay on his feet and pick up another five yards. Do I think he'll pick up 150 yards rushing? Not really. That's just not this offense. We'll use Rudi to make third downs manageable and to stunt the secondary on play-action. But that could change Monday.
Big Blue Shoe: Personally, I could probably rush for 85 and a score. Anyway, Chad Johnson acted like an immature punk during halftime of the playoff game last year, lashing out at coaches and complaining he wasn't getting the ball enough. This season, his distractions often corresponded with the team losing. For the last few weeks, Johnson has been relatively quiet, and the Bengals are winning. Coincidence?
Kirkendall: I don't think whether or not he's vocal has anything to do with his performances. I think his increased production has everything to do with Palmer having confidence and the offensive play-calling being much more aggressive. As a result, everyone's production has gone up. Granted, when he was Ocho Cinco (or Ochenta y Cinco as some humorless villains will correct), he had one of the most unproductive spans in his career. All I know is is that my Spanish sucks.
Big Blue Shoe: And finally, how will this game go down? The Colts offense has averaged 17 points the last two weeks, and the defense has surrendered over 500 rushing yards. Cincy's defense is improved, and the Bengals are getting healthier. How will this go down?
Kirkendall: I do think the Bengals have momentum on their side. I'm not sure if it'll be a shootout and the last team that has the ball wins. Last year's game between our teams was one of the few that I said to myself, "I hope we win, but even if we don't, this will still be a great game to watch." I'm expecting the same Monday.
Many thanks for the time Kirkendall. Be sure to check out Cincy Jungle this Monday for some cross-blogging between Kirkendall and I as the Bengals travel to Indy to take on the Colts.