Bengals Preview, Week Seven: Indianapolis
The Cincinnati Bengals have become an odd team on offense.
What started as a polished and well-built passing attack has become a stripped down hodgepodge of backups and return men. That being said, Andy Dalton is putting together his most impressive season, perhaps not from a statistical standpoint, but he is certainly passing the eyeball test in terms of what a capable quarterback is supposed to look like.
Also, the misfit cast of receivers filling in for AJ Green, Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones, have done so admirably and have proven the legitimacy of the old adage, “next man up”. Brandon Tate looks far more impressive as a receiver than a kick returner, Mohamed Sanu is well dressed as a number-one receiver and even Jermaine Gresham had a nice contribution a week ago. These rascals managed to put up 37 points against what many people consider a pretty good defense by being weird and playing to their strengths.
Nonetheless, it's hard to consistently win with backups. We know Jones is out for the year, but without the other two, the pressure on the running game continues to mount. Yes, Gio Bernard had a terrific run last week—the explosive play ability is what makes him so valuable—but his carries on first and second downs need to be limited. Jeremy Hill is more than capable of carrying the load and keeping the offense on schedule. Bernard seems born to be the change-of-pace back that excels on third downs and other unique situations. The Bengals need a stiff running game to control games offensively, and based on the skill sets we've seen, it seems logical to begin piling up the yardage on Hill's legs.
There are even more concerns on the defensive side of the ball. Missing Rey Maualuga and Emmanuel Lemur is going to exacerbate the problems the Bengals have covering tight ends. The Colts love going to their tight ends on power formations and will absolutely look to exploit their absences, particularly Lemur. While Taylor Mays is an intriguing substitute as a nickel linebacker, can he take on linemen when Indianapolis invariably calls a draw play and runs it right at him?
The former Zim Clan does not invoke that old spirit quite the same way. Geno Atkins is just now starting to show some life, Carlos Dunlap seems to effect the game less than he used to, and the secondary seems only serviceable. When they blitz, it's picked up well, and they're getting roasted on third down on a regular basis. If the Bengals want to get a strangle hold on the division, they will need to get more pressure from their front four.
Lastly, the Mike Nugent situation has officially become worrisome. The confidence in him is at an all-time low in Cincinnati and his erratic play is now preventing wins. We've seen kickers fall apart Chuck Knoblauch-style, so this warrants a close examination. Luckily for the special teams, they have Pac Man returning their kicks which balances out the group as a whole.
If the Bengals win this game, it would certainly be a feather in their cap, but they aren't exactly at their best and Indy has won four in a row. Without the complete available arsenal at their disposal, it seems irrational to pick against Andrew Luck and the Colts in this one.
Colts 27, Bengals 20
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo via Bengals