The Bengals are 3-2 heading into Week 6 and they're going up against the 0-5 Indianapolis Colts. For the first time this season the Bengals are favored to win the game. They're not favored to win by two or three points, they're favored to win by a touchdown.
And can't you feel it? The dark cloud gathering over Paul Brown Stadium?
To say that this is a trap game is like saying that the NFL's blackout rule sucks. It is a trap game, without question. That's why we'll know if this truly is a new Bengals team or the same old Bengals.
The 0-5 Colts will get better because Curtis Painter will get better. Kerry Collins' concussion may have been the best thing that could have happened to the 2011 Colts (other than a healthy Peyton Manning) because Painter knows the system and he can be good. Painter has yet to throw an interception and his passer ratings have gone from 62.7 in week three to 99.4 in week four and then 115.8 in week five. The weakness of the Colts offense is their offensive line and their running game, but we've all watched Manning make his offensive linemen look excellent and we've all watched the Colts win hundreds of games through the air and not on the ground. I know Painter is far from Manning. I'm just saying.
The Bengals defensive line is going to have to do what they've been doing all year and make sure that Painter is uncomfortable every time he has the ball in his hands. I don't want to trust the Bengals secondary to contain Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark.
Offensively, the Bengals will need to run the ball and even though the Colts have the second-to-last ranked run defense I don't have much faith in their ability to do much on the ground. The offensive line needs to open holes for Benson and Benson needs to find a way to gain more than two yards per carry.
The Colts' passing defense is better but not by much. The strength of the Colts' passing defense will come from their ability to get to the quarterback before there is too much time to throw the ball. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis scare me as much as any letters in a math problem, especially Mathis who will be going up against Andre Smith.
There's no question that the Bengals should win this game but that doesn't mean that they will. We've all watched them drop winnable games in the past for various reasons. A pick-six here or a missed tackle there is all a lesser team needs to win their first game of the season.
The old Bengals may come into the sixth week facing a winless Colts team and be confident, too confident, in their ability to win and by the time they realize that they can lose, it's too late to battle back -- they lost all momentum and found themselves in a hole too deep to dig themselves out of.
Hopefully this really is a new Bengals team. Hopefully it's not just the same old team with a new face. Hopefully the Bengals come out of the gate with their foot on the gas pedal and they never let off. I would love to see the Bengals go into the bye week with a 4-2 record with a ton of momentum coming out of the other side of the bye week.
Hopefully they don't drop a very winnable game because they're the Bengals. I think this game will show us what kind of team this really is.