Last week the Colts won an overtime thriller against the Tennessee Titans. And last week I told you that’s exactly how the game would go. I know you’re here because this is the open thread and you just want to go wild in the comments (and that’s fair) but I want to highlight the fact that I got it right last week, in a season that the Colts have otherwise been impossible to predict. So the question is can I tell you what’s going to happen again this week? Absolutely not. But I’ll try.
The Bengals lost star quarterback Joe Burrow back on November 16th against the Baltimore Ravens. Everyone believed that their season was effectively over. They lost that game against the Ravens, lost the following week to the Pittsburgh Steelers and nobody outside of Cincinnati believed they had a chance to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. But that’s what they did. Jake Browning had a good day and the Bengals won 34-31 in overtime. Bengals fans are, understandably, over the moon with Jake Browning’s performance and they believe he might be able to lead them on a run to finish the season out strong.
Browning excelled last week, mostly in two areas; 1. quick short throws at or behind the line of scrimmage and 2. waiting until his immensely talented receivers were in one-on-one situations without safety help and just throwing the ball deep and letting Ja’Marr Chase make a play. I don’t mean to dismiss this as a strategy, the Bengals have great playmakers on the outside and they should get the ball in their hands as much and as quickly as possible. And also, if you have Ja’Marr Chase on your team and you notice he’s one-on-one with no safety help and you don’t throw him a deep ball, you’re doing it wrong. So the strategy is good, but it is limited.
If the Colts eliminate the deep ball by playing a lot of quarters coverage and they rally to the ball and tackle well after Browning completes all of those screens and RPO’s, it won’t take long before the Bengals are in a situation where Jake Browning is going to have to make a play on his own to move the chains or score points and so far Jake Browning hasn’t looked like a playmaker. So defensively, the Colts don’t have an easy task. Tackling Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, et. al, for short gains all game long is far easier said than done. Keeping Ja’Marr Chase from going down field and making a great play that only a handful of people on the plant can make, is easier said than done. But the path forward for the Colts defense is clear. Now they just have to do it.
Offensively, the game depends entirely on what version of Gardner Minshew we see today. If Minshew plays like he did last week, the Colts win this game and I don’t think many Colts fans feel a lot of stress. If Minshew plays the way he has most weeks, well the Colts are going to need Zack Moss to step up and fight for every yard he can get (something Moss seems to enjoy, anyway). I think the backs and tight ends could have some success receiving off of motion and out of the backfield today, so that’s something to keep an eye on.
Will the Colts win this game? I have no idea. If they limit turnovers offensively and force Jake Browning into situations where he needs to create- the Indianapolis Colts should win. But winning five games in a row in the NFL is insanely difficult to do. Especially with a backup quarterback. Either way, it’s another Sunday with football, so it’ll be a good day.
This is your week fourteen open thread so hang out here, chat, celebrate, commiserate, and argue in the comments! Go wild (within reason)!