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Five Questions about Colts vs. Bengals with Cincy Jungle

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Stampede Blue talks with Cincy Jungle's Scott Bantel about the Bengals and the upcoming matchup against the Colts.

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John Grieshop

With the Colts facing the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday, Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson talked with Cincy Jungle's Scott Bantel about the Bengals and this Sunday's matchup.  The questions are in bold and then Scott's responses follow.

1.  The Bengals defense was very good last year and has a lot of good players on it, but so far this year they rank right around the middle of the pack at best in the defensive stats.  Is this an accurate representation of the way the defense has been playing, and why do you think that is?

That is a good question. Through the first 3 games, the Bengals defense looked very good, allowing just 11.0 PPG. In the last 2 games, the Bengals have given up 80 points. The real defense is somewhere in the middle, however, because of injuries, the Colts will likely see the defense that has been torched the last 2 weeks. On Sunday, the Bengals will be without their starting MLB (Rey Maualuga), WILL LB (Emmanuel Lamur) and their best run stuffing DT (Brandon Thompson). Combine that with the fact that Geno Atkins is not back to 100% from his 2013 ACL tear, and this is a defense the Colts should be able to move the ball on. What made the Bengals defense so good the past 2 seasons was their ability to pressure the quarterback while only rushing four; that is not the case in 2014. In 2014, the only way the Bengals have gotten to the quarterback is via the blitz - which leaves them vulnerable to any quarterback - especially one of Luck's caliber.

2.  With A.J. Green out, we've seen Mohamed Sanu step up and produce.  Certainly, however, the loss of Green has been a big one - can you talk about just how much that impacts the Bengals, particularly this weekend against the Colts (if the initial reports of him likely not playing turn out to be true)?

I would be shocked if Green plays, and even if he were to play, he would not be 100%. Green is certainly the Bengals best player on offense, but they have tons of weapons that can help cover his loss...the only problem is, those players are injured as well! Sanu has played exceptionally well, but he was supposed to be their #3 WR (and #4 or #5 option in the passing game) before the season started - which tells you just how deep this offense is. Their #2 WR, Marvin Jones, hasn't played all year and was just put on IR, and their talented TE, Tyler Eifert, is currently on the IR Designated to Return list and isn't eligible to return for a few more weeks. Because of injuries, the Bengals will be much more of a run first offense that takes strategic strikes downfield and the absence of Green and Jones leaves the Bengals without a true deep threat.

3.  What are Bengals' fans thoughts on Andy Dalton?  To those outside of Cincinnati, he seems like the definition of an average quarterback - you can do a lot better, but you can also do much, much worse.  I've heard someone say he's the benchmark to judge quarterbacks by - if your quarterback is as good or better than him, you're fine, but if he's worse than Dalton, then find someone else.  Are these accurate thoughts, and is this how Bengals fans view him too?

Wow, that is a tough one. I apologize in advance for my longwinded answer, but there is no other way to answer this one. I think Dalton's reputation nationally is not accurate - but understandable because of the way he has faltered on the national stage. Locally Dalton is a lightning rod amongst Bengals fans and media and is a radio talk show's dream. As a rookie, Dalton took over a 4-12 team that let go of Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, had a QB (Palmer) refusing to play and had no organized mini-camps because of the strike. Many "experts" projected the Bengals to go 0-16 that year, yet Dalton led them to the playoffs. Those that support Dalton point to his overall record (33-19-1) and the fact that he has improved in each of the following categories each year: wins (9, 10, 11), TDs (20, 27, 33), yards, YPA and rating. He also holds the franchise record for TDs (33), yards (4,293), winning percentage (.635) and is the only QB in franchise history to lead the team to 3 straight playoff appearances. His detractors - which are a large and loud group - point to his brutal numbers in big games, and most notably the playoffs (0-3, 1 TD, 6 INTs and a QBR around 18). Both camps have valid points, but I am in the camp that believes Dalton is an above average QB, and I would go as far as to say he is currently a top 10 QB in the NFL. Once everyone is done laughing, hear me out:

  • Dalton is 1 of 3 QBs of all-time (soon to be 4 - Luck) to throw 20+ TDs in each of their first 3 seasons (Manning, Marino)

  • Dalton is 1 of 5 starting QBs of all-time to lead their team to the playoffs in each of their first 3 seasons (Marino, Kosar, Flacco and Pat Haden).

  • If the Bengals make the playoffs in 2014,he will join Flacco as the only starting QBs in the Super Bowl era to reach the playoffs in each of their first four sesons

  • Dalton holds the franchise record for TDs (33), yards (4,293), winning percentage (.635) and is the only QB in franchise history to lead the team to 3 straight playoff appearances - not Ken Anderson, not Boomer Esiason, not Carson Palmer

  • Most passing yards first 3 seasons:

  1. Peyton Manning, 12,287

  2. Dan Marino, 11,431

  3. Andy Dalton, 11,360

  • Most passing TDs first 3 seasons:

  1. Dan Marino, 98

  2. Peyton Manning 85

  3. Andy Dalton, 80

  • Best TD/INT ratio first 3 seasons:

  1. Dan Marino, +54

  2. Jeff Garcia, +41

  3. Carson Palmer, +35

  4. Matt Ryan, +32

  5. Andy Dalton, +31

  • In 2013, only Peyton Manning (55) and Drew Brees (35) threw more TDs than Dalton (33)

  • Over the last 3 seasons, Dalton ranks 10th in passing yards, 9th in TDs, 12th in TD/INT ratio and 12th in passer rating

  • In fact, Dalton and Luck have very similar numbers through their first two seasons:

Record

Comp

Att

Comp %

Yds

TD

INT

INT%

YPA

Rating

QBR

Sacks

GWD

Dalton

19-13

629

1,044

60.2%

7,067

47

29

2.8%

6.8

83.9

49.36

70

7

Luck

22-10

682

1,197

57.0%

8,196

46

27

2.3%

6.8

81.8

63.62

73

11

Am I saying he will be/is as good as Peyton Manning and Dan Marino (or Luck)? Absolutely not. But, based on where he compares through his first 3 years, I think he gets an unfair reputation nationally and locally. Let's not forget, Manning was in his 5th year before he made his 3rd playoff appearance and he too started his postseason career 0-3 (including a 41-0 loss). Drew Brees didn't get to the playoffs until his 3rd season, started his playoff career 1-2 and took 9 seasons to make his third playoff appearance. Is Dalton going to be an all-time great? Probably not. But he is far above the "Bum" many Bengals fans think he is - in camp, some fans hung a sign on a bridge next to the practice field that read "Don't sign Dalton, he sucks!"

4.  Knowing what you do about the Bengals, how do you expect them to attack the Colts this Sunday?

I expect the Bengals to run the ball and run it a lot. 1) The best way to defend against Andrew Luck is keeping him off the field; 2) with the injuries the Bengals have at WR/TE they have to run out of necessity; and 3) the Bengals have an excellent two back system with Bernard and Hill (speed and size); and 4) I think the Bengals believe they can control the line of scrimmage. The Bengals have a very good offensive line and the Colts defense is giving up 4.8 YPA on the ground (t-27th).

5.  How would you expect the Colts to attack the Bengals this Sunday?

I would recommend the quick passing game and moving Luck around in the pocket. The Bengals have a good secondary and although the line hasn't been great rushing the passer in 2014, this is a line that has the ability to get after the quarterback. I expect the Bengals line to keep the Colts run game in check, but they do struggle containing QBs that can get out of the pocket (like Luck can) and with the Bengals best coverage LB (Lamur) out, the TE's and RB's should have opportunities in the passing game on Sunday.

Bonus: What's your prediction for the game?

Prior to the Bengals Sunday night debacle against the Patriots, I would have been very confident saying the Bengals. However, the Bengals have a ton of injuries on offense and defense and their defense has looked shaky at best over the last two weeks. My head (and common sense) says the Colts win this one with offense, but, in my preseason predications I had the Bengals winning, so I will stick with that. Bengals 31, Colts 27.

Thanks again to Scott Bantel of Cincy Jungle for taking the time to answer these questions!

Editor's Note: FanDuel is hosting a $250,000 one-week fantasy football league this weekend. It's $5 to join and the top 9,680 teams win money. League starts Sunday 1 PM ET and ends on Monday night. Here's the link.