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3 Things To Watch | A Road Trip To Indianapolis

200913-Bates-Jessie_sideline (AP)

The Bengals (1-3-1) look to bounce back this week as they face the Indianapolis Colts (3-2), who are also coming off a disappointing loss. The offense faces another tough challenge with Indianapolis leading the league in passing defense and fewest yards per play. 

Here are the three things to watch.

1. Starlight Star Bright –Three of the Bengals' best defensive linemen on the opening day roster (D.J. Reader, Mike Daniels and Sam Hubbard) are out for the Colts game due to injury. That puts the spotlight on some of the most notable names like Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Carl Lawson to raise their level of play. It will be a tough challenge though against a Colts offensive line that has allowed only five sacks this season, the third-best mark in the league.

Lawson ranks 11th with 3.5 sacks this season and played much better against the run. Dunlap is one sack away from tying Eddie Edwards for the franchise record and had success against Colts quarterback Phillip Rivers. When Rivers was with the Chargers, Dunlap sacked him six times, the second-most of any quarterback he's faced. Meanwhile, Atkins is coming off a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the first four games of 2020. He eased into action playing only 19 snaps at Baltimore, but should see additional time as he returns to football shape.

2. Turnover Trends – Turnovers have played a significant role for the Colts in 2020. Four of Colts quarterback Phillip Rivers' five interceptions have come in the Colts' two losses this season. Overall, the Colts have scored only eight offensive touchdowns, while attempting 17 field goals. However, the Colts defense ranks third in the NFL with nine takeaways (all interceptions).

Quietly, the Bengals appear to have turned the corner on generating turnovers. They have forced at least one turnover in the last four games. Against Baltimore, linebacker Logan Wilson made one interception and could have hauled in another. It was a focus during training camp and the extra attention to detail is paying off.

3. Up And Running - This is a great opportunity for both teams to gain some traction with their running game. Bengals running back Joe Mixon ranks second in the NFL with 101 rushing attempts and fourth with 374 yards, but the team as a whole is 22nd in the league. Chemistry is beginning to build with the Bengals offensive line as tackles Jonah Williams and Bobby Hart, along with guard Michael Jordan and center Trey Hopkins have played every snap this season. 

Meanwhile, the Colts rank 19th in rushing yards per game (105.8) and 31st in yards per attempt (3.6). It's a significant dip from 2019 when they finished seventh in rushing. In their two losses, Indianapolis averaged 78 rushing yards, compared to the 124.3 yards per game in the three wins.


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET

Television: The game will air on FOX-TV. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WXIX-TV (Ch. 19) in Cincinnati, WGRT-TV (Ch. 45) in Dayton, WDKY-TV (Ch. 56) in Lexington, and WTTE-TV (Ch. 28) in Columbus. Broadcasters are Kevin Kugler (play-by-play), Chris Spielman (analyst) and Laura Okmin (reporter).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).