Two AFC divisional leaders will meet at Paul Brown Stadium at 1 PM on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals (8-4, 5-0 home) take on the Indianapolis Colts (8-4, 4-2 away). The AFC North leading Bengals have a two Game lead on Baltimore thanks to a 17-10 road win over the Chargers. The AFC South first place Colts also won last week, taking down the Titans 22-14 at home. That effectively wrapped up the division for them as the closest team is three Games out with only Four weeks of football to play.
The Bengals are currently -6 point home favorites at 5 dimes sportsbook with a total of 43.
The Bengals have played five of their last seven Games on the road and produced a 5-2 record in that span. Now, they will play three of their last Four at home. The offense has been spectacular in the last two home Games, putting up 41 against the Cleveland Browns and 49 against the New York Jets. Those are easily their two best efforts of the year with the third being a 34 point Game, at home, against the Green Bay Packers.
Cincinnati’s 11th ranked passing attack starts and stops with QB Andy Dalton. The third year player out of TCU has been hit or miss this year. In back to back road Games against Baltimore and Miami he threw six INTs compared to only two TDs. However, he has eight TDs and three INTs in the Bengals last two home Games. He looked ACCeptable last week against San Diego, passing for 190 YDs, 1 TD and 1 INT. It’s no secret that playmaking WR AJ Green is the leader of the WR corps. He is 5th in the NFL in YDs (1,102) and REC (73) and has reached the end zone seven times this year.
OC Jay Gruden is likely to stick to the strategy that got this team the “W” in San Diego. That is using his combination of RBs BenJarvus Greene-Ellis and Giovani Bernard to carve out big GAins. They combined for 1 TD and 149 YDs on 34 carries. It will be interesting to see how they fare against Indy’s 28th ranked rushing defense.
Colts QB Andrew LUck has been a disaster in three of his last Four Games (TEN, AZ, ST.L) throwing 2 TDs and 5 INTs in that span. The second year Stanford graduate is undeniably talented and will develop into one of the best QBs in the league, but must break out of his recent cold streak if his Colts team expects to win this Game and the ones looming in the playoffs. Getting back in tune with fellow second year player WR T.Y. Hilton will catalyze the offense. Hilton has 791 YDs and 5 TDs on 56 catches this season.
One thing the Colts have going for them is their excellent road play. Despite an embarrassing 40-11 loss at Arizona, they crushed San Francisco 27-7, blew out Jacksonville 38-3 and slipped by Houston 27-24 and Tennessee 30-27. The Bengals won’t make it easy though. As we previously mentioned, they are 5-0 at home and the offense plays at a different level.
Both teams in good shape in terms of the playoff picture, however, I think I’d be more coNCerned if I was a Colts fan. Their recent play leaves a lot to be desired. They were beaten 38-8 by the Rams and 40-11 by the Cards in recent weeks with their wins coming against the Texans and Titans, barely. That’s not the performance of a playoff team.
If you took the entire seasons worth of stats, it would be easy to make a case for the Colts here. However, if you take a what have you done for me lately approach, the Bengals would be the side and Our NFL model picks up on that, predicting 14 and 9 point Bengals win using the last 4 and 7 Games of data. The Bengals would appear to be the more likely of the two to not only make the playoffs but possibly do well when they get there. If that’s going to be the case, good NFL playoff teams win home Games this time of year and usually cover in the process. Bengals -6