Kickoff Returns: Colts: 28.0 Avg (t-2nd); 0 TD; Bengals: 27.6 Avg (4th); 0 TD
Punt Returns: Colts: 6.9 Avg (t-26th); 0 TD; Bengals: 10.9 Avg (7th); 0 TD
Kickers: Colts: Adam Vinatieri: 30/31 (96.8% - 1st); Long 53 yds
Bengals: Mike Nugent: 26/33 (78.8% - 26th); Long 49 (1 blocked)
Punters: Colts: Pat McAfee: NET 43.7 (t-3rd); Inside 20: 30 (43.5%); TB: 3 (4.3%)
Bengals: Kevin Huber: NET 43.7 (t-3rd); Inside 20: 27 (37.0%); TB: 6 (8.2%)
Kick Coverage: Colts:22.6 Avg (10th); 0 TD; Bengals: 25.5 Avg (22nd); 0 TD
Punt Coverage: Colts: 5.9 Avg (3rd); 0 TD; Bengals: 7.5 Avg (10th); 1 TD
It has seemed like eons since the Bengals did not have the advantage in special teams, however, the Colts have one of the best units in the NFL and the Bengals are fresh off a week that saw them miss a field goal and allow their first returned touchdown of the year. McAfee and Vinatieri make up the best punter/kicker duo in the NFL and the Colts are solid everywhere else in special teams as well. The one place I would give the Bengals the advantage would be in the kick and punt return game and if Adam Jones can break one, it could go a long way to helping the Bengals end their playoff drought.
Chuck Pagano has 48 career games as an NFL Head Coach, a .688 career winning percentage (33-15), two division titles and three playoff appearances in three years with a career playoff record of 1-2 (.333). While Pagano doesn't have a great track record in the playoffs - two of his three losses are of the blowout variety and if not for a historical comeback in 2013, he would have three blowout losses on his resume - he does at least have a playoff win.
Marvin Lewis has 192 career games as an NFL Head Coach, a .526 career winning percentage (100-90-2), 3 division titles and 6 playoff appearances in 12 years, but is still looking for his first postseason victory. Lewis is an impressive 0-5 in the playoffs. For those of you counting at home, that is still a playoff winning percentage of .000.
Key(s) to the Game:
Establishing the run and protecting the football are big keys to this game, as well as stopping the run. If the Bengals allow the Colts to get their run game going the way they did in Week 7, they will lose. 100%. The Bengals have to shut down the Colts running attack and make the Colts predicable.
The key for the Bengals will be to get their own run game going. The last time they went to Indy they netted 32 yards on the ground. 32 damn yards. If that happens again, they will lose. 100%. However, the last time they went to Indianapolis, Jeremy Hill was not a big part of the game plan. This game will run through Hill for the Bengals, literally and figuratively. If they can get Hill (and Bernard) going, they can keep the pressure off Dalton and his depleted receiving corps, soften up a solid secondary and open up some opportunities for Mohammed Sanu. The run game will also be key to keeping Andrew Luck and the No. 1 passing attack off the field.
All the talk will be about the Bengals (and Dalton's) playoff failures. That has no bearing on this game. I believe the Bengals' offense will take their physical play to the Colts, get the run going and the defense will make the Colts one dimensional. As a result, I like the Bengals coming back over I-74 with their first playoff victory since 1991.
Bengals 24, Colts 20