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Behind Enemy Lines: Colts Expect a Different Bengals Team

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The Bengals and Colts meet up for the third time this year (including the preseason finale) and we are again joined by Josh Wilson of Stampede Blue to take a look at the I-74 playoff showdown.

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Scott: As someone who remembers the 1990's and 2000's all too well, I have seen a lot of poor performances by the Cincinnati Bengals. Prior to the Week 10 meltdown against the Browns, the Week 7 beat down by the Colts was one of the worst performances I have ever seen from the Bengals. Given how soundly the Colts beat the Bengals in all three phases of the game, what is the general sentiment in the locker room surrounding this I-74 rematch?

Josh: The Colts are absolutely looking for a repeat (from) that performance, but they know that they're not going to get it. They fully expect that the Bengals will come out with a different gameplan. While Indianapolis is certainly getting some encouragement from the fact that they beat the Bengals so solidly the last time, they're focusing on this week's game versus the one we saw in October.

And that's for the best, seeing as the Bengals will almost certainly do things differently and do things better than they did then. Colts fans are taking more pride in that victory this week, but even the fans don't expect this one to be as lopsided as the previous matchup was. So I'd say that generally, while it's very encouraging to see that the Colts already beat this team handily, the team isn't putting a ton of stock into that this week.

Scott: As someone who has not followed the Colts closely, it seems like the Colts were playing their best football of the season when they met up with the Bengals in Week 7. The Colts could do no wrong in that game and the Bengals could do nothing...at all! Since that game, it seems as though the Colts have simply not been clicking on all cylinders. Is that a fair assessment? And if so, is there a reason?

Josh: Yeah, the two best games the Colts played this season came in a three-week span, with wins over the Baltimore Ravens and then the Cincinnati Bengals. Those are the only two playoff teams that the Colts beat this season, and we've seen a development of the Colts playing very well against average to below-average teams and then playing poorly against good to great teams.

So if we're talking about the defensive side of the football, I think the biggest reason for some of their struggles is just simply the opponent - the Colts' defense has weaknesses, and those will be exploited by teams with good offenses. As for the offense, that's more complicated because the reason for their struggles have mostly been self-inflicted. They've had a terrible problem with protecting the football in the last month or two, and that's a big issue.

Their offensive line is a major question mark, and there's a real chance that the Colts could be starting their eleventh different line combination this weekend in their seventeenth game. Also, the offense has never really been the same since the loss of Ahmad Bradshaw, and since then their run game has been awful and defenses don't respect the threat their backs bring whatsoever.  So those are some of the reason for the offensive struggles recently.

Scott: Andrew Luck has had an incredible season with 40 touchdowns and 4,700+ yards. However, Luck had 26 touchdowns and 9 interceptions after Week 9. In the last seven weeks, Luck has 14 touchdowns to 7 interceptions - numbers Bengals fans would love from Dalton - but certainly a drop off from Luck's huge first half numbers (and 5 of the touchdowns were against Washington). In his last three games, Luck is averaging just 152.0 YPG. Why the drop off in his numbers? And is there any concern with the drop off?

Josh: Well, when it comes to the interceptions, they have been an issue recently but not as big of one as they might initially appear - on 616 attempts this year, Luck threw 16 picks. I'm ok with a guy throwing those picks with how much he throws, although as you pointed out a number of those interceptions have come recently.

Still, I think Luck's fumbles are a much bigger problem than his interceptions are, and one of the biggest reasons for his recent fumbles is simply that he's trying to extend the play when he should just take the sack. I think we've been reminded that Andrew Luck isn't perfect - but that he's still pretty dang good.

As for the yardage drop off, he only played a half of each of the last two games, so that's part of the reason for the drop off lately. But overall, a number of the issues I mentioned in the previous question, such as having a very poor offensive line and a very poor run game, have begun to wear on Luck a bit I think and they have been dragging him down some.  He's missed some throws, certainly, and he's not without blame. But I think the larger issues with the offense and even with some of Luck's recent struggles lie with other components of the offense.