Coming off of a forgetful Week 5 loss to the division-rival Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts, in hopes of a face-saving, bounce-back victory. Week 5 got really ugly for the Bengals, as the offense yet again struggled to get much going which led to an eventual 27-3 defeat. The defense played well in the second half of the game, but still left much to be desired in certain areas.
The match-up in Week 6 won’t necessarily be much easier for the 1-3-1 Bengals. The Indianapolis Colts (3-2), enter this game No. 1 in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), No. 1 in total yards allowed per game (266.0), and tops in the league in passing yards allowed per game (179.6). They have been surprisingly stellar in 2020, also placing in the top-three in several other defensive categories, including rushing yards allowed (86.4). The Colts’ offense hasn’t been a major threat thus far, but it does feature arguably one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and have no problem leaning on the run-game behind it.
Cincinnati will likely have their hands full in this match-up, and will be a little short-handed on the defensive side, too. Both defensive end Sam Hubbard and defensive tackle D.J. Reader suffered major injuries last week, with the latter being a season-ender. Hubbard was placed on the Injured Reserve list, which will keep him out for at least three weeks.
Indianapolis leads the all-time series between the two teams with a 19-12 record, 11-7 at home.
Kickoff: Sunday, October 18th, 2020, at 1:00 PM EST.
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN.
Television Broadcast: The game will be aired on FOX-TV. Locally, it will air in the usual Bengals TV region; Cincinnati’s WXIX-TV (Ch. 19), Lexington’s WDKY-TV (Ch. 56), Dayton’s WGRT-TV (Ch. 45), as well as WTTE-TV (Ch. 28) in Columbus. The play-by-play will be done by Kevin Kugler, and Chris Spielman will serve as the analyst.
Radio Broadcast: The match-up will be aired locally via Bengals Radio Network. The radio broadcast will be headed by Cincinnati flagship stations WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530), WEBN-FM (102.7), and WLM-AM (700). Dan Hoard will handle the play-by-play while Dave Lapham will work as analyst.
Weather: High near 60. Mostly cloudy with 54% humidity and winds SSW at 12 mph. 20% chance of rain. (The Weather Channel)
Line: IND -7.5
Three Things To Watch
- Can the offense put more points on the board?
The Bengals’ offense put up a stinker in Week 5 against the Ravens. The unit was barely able to cross midfield for much of the game and only scored a grand total of three points. Even sadder, those points came in the waning minutes of the contest, as head coach Zac Taylor elected to settle for a field goal rather than attempting to score a touchdown. While the actual points there may not have made any difference, an actual TD would’ve meant much more to the team’s pride and “respect” to the sport. Either way, three points won’t cut it this week (or really any week in the NFL), so Taylor and his crew have to scheme up ways to get more into scoring territory.
- Wide receiver rotation…
Second-year man Auden Tate, a 6’5″ Florida State-product who’s flashed at times, is doubtful for this match. He’s been battling a shoulder injury that caused him to miss practice session this week, and be a limited participant in two others. Former first-rounder John Ross III was a “healthy scratch” in Weeks 4 and 5. Although he brings 4.20 speed to the offense, Cincy hadn’t actually missed much of Ross, as they were able to get solid production out of the remaining WRs, and even get their first win of the season during that time. With Tate likely to miss the Colts match-up, Ross will most likely be back on the active game-day roster. It’ll be interesting to see how Ross will be used, if at all. Rookie Tee Higgins has played well in his absence and seems to be a favorable target early on for fellow rookie Joe Burrow.
- Can Burrow and the offense connect on some deep shots?
One of the glaring issues so far in Joe Burrow’s brief, professional career is the lack of completions deep downfield. Through five games, the first-overall pick in the 2020 draft has just one completion over 20 air yards. One! This is all while being ranked No. 2 in total pass attempts. This could be chalked up to the lack of preseason and shortened training camp. Or it could have to do with the porous O-line that’s given up a ton of sacks, pressures, and QB hits already. Maybe even a combination of all of the above. Burrow will have to start completing some of these deep balls in order to make the defense respect his offense more, and open up middle of the field for his big possession WRs. Additionally, the rushing attack should get more room to operate.
Keys To Victory
- Commit to the run (on defense) – As mentioned earlier, Indy boasts one of the best offensive line groups in the entire league. They also have a shiny new toy in rookie running back Jonathan Taylor, who was a second-round pick and the third running back taken off the board in this year’s draft. Although as a team the Colts are only averaging 3.6 yards per carry, they are ranked fifth in attempts. On the other hand, Cincinnati’s defense is ranked second-worst in the league in total rushing yards allowed (eight yards from being dead last) and third-worst in rushing yards per game. The Colts will surely want to establish the run, so the Bengals have to be ready to counter.
- Keep Rivers moving – Quarterback Philip Rivers has always been more of a statuesque type of QB, but Father Time is undefeated and has made the future-Hall of Famer almost immobile at this point. Rivers will turn 39 in two months, and his age has diminished his physical attributes where he really doesn’t want to get moved off of his spot in the pocket. He’d rather sit still and toss a quick pass because he isn’t able to move well to avoid pressure at this stage of his career. If Cincy can put enough pressure on Rivers, it’ll make him uncomfortable about maneuvering in the pocket, which could lead to some errant throws and a bunch of QB hits. Rivers has passed for only one touchdown or fewer in each game this year.
- Attack the middle of the defense – Five weeks into the 2020 season, the Indianapolis Colts’ secondary has been playing lights out. They are a key cog in the defense’s No. 1 ranking in total passing yards allowed. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes has had a resurgence, ranking tops in the NFL by Pro Football Focus in lowest completion rates allowed among cornerbacks (43%). However, the Colts will be without their All-Pro linebacker, Darius Leonard. Although they still roster other LBs, there will undoubtedly be a significant drop off in run-stopping as well as coverage ability, without Leonard. This could be a big break for the Bengals who still seek more production from the ground-game and also have crafty receivers in the intermediate parts of the field.
- The Bengals signed DT Kahlil McKenzie from the practice squad to the active roster.
- PFF has Darius Phillips tied for second in lowest completion rates allowed among CBs.
- Bengals safety Jessie Bates III is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.
- ESPN’s Ben Baby noted that Jessie Bates III leads the NFL in “expected catch rate below expectations” when he’s the nearest defender.
(Featured Image Credit: Jeff Roberson for AP Photos / Bengals.com)