After an initial scare of positive tests, the Colts look clear and ready to go to battle against the Cincinnati Bengals. Led by former Heisman winner Joe Burrow, the Bengals have looked good at times, but are still inconsistent, and their offense just got absolutely demolished by the Ravens.
Rock Ya-Sin vs. Tyler Boyd
Tyler Boyd has been Burrow’s favorite target during his first few games, racking up double the catches of the nearest wide receiver. Ya-Sin, as the whole secondary, has benefitted from the improved pass-rush among the defensive line, and looks much better this season. If Ya-Sin can put the clamps on Boyd, then Burrow will be forced to throw to players he has not shown much chemistry with yet, like A.J Green (41% catch rate), or Tee Higgins (53% catch rate).
Colts D-Line vs. Bengals O-Line
The Colts defensive line has been among the best in the NFL after adding All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, while the Bengals’ offensive line is struggling both keeping Burrow off the ground (22 sacks allowed through 5 games) and also opening up lanes for Joe Mixon (Just 3.7 YPC). The Colts front 7 should be able to dominate the battle in the trenches and keep the Bengals’ offense in check.
Anthony Castonzo/Braden Smith vs. Carl Lawson
Carl Lawson has been an above-average defensive end for the past two seasons, but because he plays on one of the worst teams, he is criminally overlooked. He already has 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble, and is the key man to stop on the Bengals defensive line. Castonzo looks to be back from his rib injury, while Smith has been solid, but nothing spectacular. After facing Khalil Mack and Myles Garrett in consecutive weeks, Lawson does not look like a threat, but if left unchecked, he has the potential to make a couple of plays.
T.Y. Hilton vs. Mackensie Alexander
T.Y. showed some flashes against the Browns, and he will look to break the 100-yard mark against the Bengals’ suspect pass defense. Mackensie Alexander is banged up, so Hilton could take advantage of it and finally start showing some sort of chemistry with Rivers.
Colts Special Teams Vs. Bengals Special Teams
Two of the best special teams in the NFL will face off on Sunday. Now I know no one is interested in a special teams battle, but I am really excited for this one. Last seaso,n I was calling for Bubba Ventrone (Colts ST coordinator) to be fired, as Indy not only struggled with kicking, but also on kickoffs and returns. I am glad I was wrong, as the Colts appear to have found a new kicker in rookie Rodrigo Blankenship. Additionally, punter Rigoberto Sanchez looks as reliable as ever and the return game has shown flashes with Rodgers and Hines. Last game against the Browns showed that a mistake on special teams can be very expensive, as Hines fielded a punt inside the Colts 5-yard line, and the drive resulted in a safety. The Bengals have a very solid special teams unit, as kicker Randy Bullock (former Texan) has been perfect since missing a potential game tying field goal in Week 1, Kevin Huber is a really good punter, and their returners are quite decent.