This weekend the Colts travel to Cincinnati to play the Bengals in a matchup of two current division leaders and a game that could have a lot to say about playoff seeding. CBS's Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will have the call at 1:00 p.m. eastern time and the one and only Bob Lamey will have the game locally on the radio on WFNI and WHLK, with Jim Sorgi providing the color commentary. Here's everything you need to know to get you ready for the game on Sunday:
What Happened Last Week?
The Colts pretty much wrapped up the division with a hard-fought 22-14 win over the Titans in a game where Adam Vinatieri and the defense won the game for the home team. The Colts struggled to put the ball into the end zone, but Vinatieri hit 5 field goals (four from 45+ yards out) and the defense forced 4 turnovers to get the win.
The Bengals also got a hard-fought win last week, going to San Diego and playing a well rounded but unspectacular game to beat the Chargers 17-10. The Bengals recorded 2 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, recovered 2 fumbles, and picked off a pass in a defensive effort that held the Chargers offense to just 10 points, and Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and the Bengals run game (led by BenJarvus Green-Ellis) played well also.
The Colts and the Bengals have had very similar seasons statistically so far. Take a look at this comparison between the teams. The only real things that are significantly different are the points per game allowed and the division record:
|Points Per Game||23.8||24.3|
|Points Per Game Allowed||22.8||18.0|
Playoff Seeding on the Line?
The Colts right now are 8-4, just like the Bengals are. The Colts lead the AFC South, and the Bengals lead the AFC North. If the playoffs started today, the Colts would be the AFC's 3 seed while the Bengals would be the 4 seed, thanks to the tie breaking procedure of conference record - the Colts are 6-2 against the AFC while the Bengals are 6-3. If the Colts were to win on Sunday, not only would it give them a game up on the Bengals in terms of record but it would also add another game to the conference record above the Bengals and more importantly would give the Colts the head to head victory. If the Bengals win Sunday, pretty much the same thing happens for them - they would have a better record than the Colts, a better conference record, and the head to head victory. In a very real way, this game could be the one that decides who gets the 3 seed and who gets the 4 seed. Not a huge deal, but it could turn out to be depending on who the 5 and 6 seeds end up being (as the 5 seed looks much stronger than any of the 6 seed options right now).
Pagano on the Game vs. the Bengals:
Here is what Colts head coach Chuck Pagano had to say Monday about the Bengals:
"Really good football team. Well-coached. Got playmakers on both sides of the ball. Special teams are solid. From an offensive standpoint, they got a great 1-2 punch at running back. The law firm (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) is a hard-nosed between the tackles guy and grinds out a lot of tough yards and makes a lot of first downs for them. Gio (Bernard) comes in. Second leading receiver. He's dangerous. He's quick. He's fast. He's elusive. Great out of the backfield again in the pass game. And wide receiver, one of the best in the league in A.J. Green. The quarterback is playing well. Tight end. They got a bunch of weapons. Defensively, they're ranked sixth in the National Football League for good reason. They got good players. Got a good front seven, good linebacking core, good in the back end. Mike Zimmer does a great job with them. They play fast, physical. They're big, they're long, they're athletic. Really, really good football team. Well-coached. Marvin (Lewis) has done a great job there for a number of years. He's put himself together a really good squad."
Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful:
According to weather forecasts, the temperature for Sunday's game will likely be right around 30 degrees with a strong chance of precipitation, with freezing rain the most likely possibility. Andrew Luck talked about it on Monday and Chuck Pagano talked about it on Friday.
Luck (questions in bold):
The forecast says there might be snow on Sunday. Have you ever played in snow before?"
(Laughs) No, I probably haven't played in snow since I was throwing a football around as a kid, so very excited about it. I love playing outside. I think there's something about it that's fun, so we're looking forward to it."
Do you have to adjust the way you throw the football at all in the snow?
"I don't think you want to think about it too much, in a sense. I think when you start thinking about that, you're thinking about the wrong things. So I don't think so."
Do you think the weather will have a big effect on the game?
"You know what, the elements, it is what it is. From a ball security standpoint, that's what we stressed all week long. That's why we got outside all week long. If it's sleeting sideways and 30 degrees, 20 degrees, it really comes down to ball security, taking care of it. Makes throwing the ball a little bit difficult too, so better pack a good run game."
Jeff Linkenbach, OL (quad)
Ricky Jean Francois, DL (foot)
Greg Toler, CB (groin)
Kavell Conner, LB (ankle)
Hugh Thornton, OL (neck)
Sergio Brown, S (hand)
Josh Gordy, CB (groin)
T.Y. Hilton, WR (shoulder)
Robert Mathis, OLB (rest)
For more on the injury situations, read my notes from yesterday's press conference with Chuck Pagano.
The Colts really don't match up well in this game. The offensive line failures have been beyond evident, and even without Geno Atkins the Bengals have one of the best defensive fronts in all of football. They create trouble for any quarterback they play, and with a terrible offensive line already Andrew Luck could be in for a very long day. A big key could be cornerback Vontae Davis against Bengals receiver A.J. Green - one of the best in all of football. That could go a long way in deciding this game, as if Davis shuts down Green the Bengals passing game is essentially shut down quite a bit, too. The Colts have shown up when the games are biggest, and I think this game could be very telling about just where this team is right now. I think the Colts will be competitive and I think that the game - likely to be played in the cold and in the elements - will be a low-scoring game, but I see the Bengals pulling it out. Colts 13, Bengals 20