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Bengals vs. Colts: Expert picks, analysis and predictions

The Bengals enter this game 3-1-1, while the Colts are 4-2 and winners of four straight.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Division winners of a year ago will face off in Week 7 when the Indianapolis Colts play host to the Cincinnati Bengals.

For the Colts, this will be a chance for their fifth-straight, a feat they haven't accomplished since the franchise's last Super Bowl appearance. You wouldn't have guessed that would be the case when the season began though.

Indy began the year 0-2, but have reeled off four straight wins to ascend to the top of the AFC South. They will now look for their fifth win at home.

This will be a tough matchup for the Bengals' 28th-ranked defense, which will have to contain the Colts' No. 1-ranked offense. That defense has given up 80 points over the past two games, while the Colts are averaging 34.5 points of their past four games.

On the other side, Cincinnati started the year 3-0 and was the talk of the NFL. However, a 43-17 thrashing by New England and a 37-all tie with Carolina has the Bengals in need of a win this week to stay on top of the AFC North.

It won't be easy, especially with Colts QB Andrew Luck leading the NFL with 1,987 passing yards and 17 passing scores while also ranking seventh in QB rating with a 99.6 mark. Cincinnati has struggled on defense, allowing 257.4 passing yards per game to opposing offenses while sauntering to a No. 29 road run defense that allows 155.5 yards per game away from home.

So, what are the experts saying about this game?

All 13 of ESPN's panelists like the Colts to prevail with all 13 picks in favor of Indy. Here's what ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando had on the matchup:

John Clayton writes how there's plenty at stake for both teams in this Week 7 clash, the biggest of which is determining the best AFC team behind Denver and New England:

Since Peyton Manning moved to Denver, the Broncos and Patriots have been the top two seeds in the AFC. Little has changed this season. The Broncos beat the Indianapolis Colts in the opener and the Patriots blew out the Bengals by 26 two weeks ago. Philip Rivers' hot start gives the San Diego Chargers hope of challenging the Broncos in the AFC West, but Sunday's game between Cincinnati and Indianapolis could determine the AFC's No. 3 seed and whether someone is progressing enough to become known as the next-best team behind the Broncos and Patriots.

After six weeks, the early playoff picture in the AFC doesn't look much difference from last season. The Broncos, Patriots, Bengals and Colts are vying to repeat as division winners, and the Chargers should either repeat as a wild card or do better.

Per Mike Wells of ESPN, the Colts appear to finally be getting healthy in their starting offensive line just in time to face a struggling Bengals front seven.

Barring a sudden change between now and Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts should have the starting offensive line they plan to use the rest of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Gosder Cherilus and guard Jack Mewhort were full participants in practice Thursday. Guard Hugh Thornton (back) was limited in practice, but should be good to go against the Bengals.

Jason Lacanfora of CBS Sports writes how Andrew Luck vs. the stringy Bengals pass defense will be critical to deciding the winner of this contest, as too will be how the Colts handle Andy Dalton and his new favorite target, Mohamed Sanu.

Luck is averaging 346 yards per game during his four- game winning streak, with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. That kind of roll is not sustainable in this league and especially against this opponent. The Bengals are allowing opposing passers a paltry 71.4 rating -- lowest in the NFL -- with seven interceptions and just six touchdowns allowed. Opposing passers are averaging just 6.05 yards per attempt, second-lowest in the NFL. Luck may have his hands full this week.

Dalton did fall off his game a few times last week without A.J. Green to throw to, and with Marvin Jones now out for the season, all the more reason to look for Mohammed Sanu to continue to be a go-to target for them. Wonder if Chuck Pagano goes ahead and sticks stud corner Vontae Davis on Sanu and forces others to beat him if Green is out again.

As for the rest of the CBS Sports crew, their staff favors Indianapolis by a 5-3 margin. Yahoo Sports' group of three sees it like everyone else with the Bengals falling, 3-0. SB Nation's team leans Indy's way with five of seven experts picking the home team.