Kickoff: 7 p.m. Eastern.
Television: Live coverage on the Bengals Preseason Network with Brad Johansen (play-by-play), Anthony Munoz (analyst) and Mike Valpredo (sideline reporter). The network is led by flagship WKRC-TV (CBS Channel 12) in Cincinnati. Also on the network are WKEF-TV (ABC Ch. 22) in Dayton, WSYX-TV (ABC Ch. 6) in Columbus, WLIO-TV (FOX Ch. 8.2) in Lima, WDKY-TV FOX (Ch. 56) in Lexington, Ky. and WDRB-TV (FOX Ch. 41) in Louisville, Ky.
Radio: Coverage 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).
Setting the scene: The Cincinnati Bengals travel to Indianapolis for their fourth and final game of the 2017 preseason against the Colts on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium. They head into the contest feeling reasonably good about their squad, despite losing to the Washington Redskins, 23-17, this past Sunday at FedExField.
Most of the first-team offense and first-team defense played for much of the first half against the Redskins, and despite the game's final outcome, those units played well overall and looked ready for the regular-season opener. In addition, the team had the opportunity to mix in a few of their promising younger players early — players who figure to play large roles with the team as the season moves forward.
Against the Redskins, the Bengals' offense started off with a 15-play, 87-yard drive that took 8:51 off the clock and ended in a three-yard TD run by HB Jeremy Hill. QB Andy Dalton connected with WR A.J. Green four times for 43 yards on the drive, twice converting third downs, while Hill and fellow HB Joe Mixon combined for seven rushes for 27 yards and the score. The offense fumbled and turned the ball over on the second play of the second drive, but otherwise had a solid first half.
Defensively, the Bengals began the game forcing three consecutive Redskins drives which all went for negative yardage — minus-three yards, minus-nine yards and minus-two yards — and a fourth drive that went for just 21 yards before Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass and returned it 62 yards for a TD. The Bengals' defense was particularly noteworthy on the three third downs of those three drives. On the first, Bengals DE Chris Smith sacked Redskins QB Kirk Cousins on third down. On the second, pressure by Cincinnati's pass rush forced Cousins into an intentional grounding penalty on third down. And on the third, Bengals LB Carl Lawson sacked Cousins.
"I was pleased with things overall in the game other than the fumble (on the second drive)," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "I thought a lot of things were positive, and the tempo was good.
"We got a few of the starters out of the game early, then we were able to put some young guys in there with some of the other starters and let them play together. We have to keep those young guys going."
This week against the Colts, many of the veteran players that the Bengals will count on most during the regular season are likely to play briefly, if at all. The last preseason game generally serves as the final audition for bubble players to state their case for making the team — a contest which aids the coaching staff in settling the 53-player roster, while also providing rookies and other young players with valuable game experience that might be harder to come by in the regular season.
"One of the things that matters most is trying to give the young guys an opportunity to show whether they belong — whether they deserve the opportunity to stay here," Lewis said. "That's really the focus of it (at this point)."
The series: The Bengals lead the Colts 16-9 in preseason play, holding an 8-4 margin as the visiting team and an 8-5 lead as the home team. The Bengals have won 11 of the last 15 preseason meetings, as well as three of the past four. The Colts won last year's preseason meeting, 13-10, at Paul Brown Stadium.
Since 1992, the Bengals and Colts have played every year except 2000 in the preseason. All 25 preseason games between the two franchises have taken place since the Colts moved to Indianapolis from Baltimore.
In the official regular-season series rivalry, the Colts lead 19-10, including 2-0 in postseason. The last meeting was Indy's 26-10 playoff win in the 2014 campaign.
The Bengals and Colts are scheduled to meet in the 2017 regular season, on Oct. 29 at Paul Brown Stadium.
The I-74 rivalry: Cincinnati vs. Indianapolis is the closest geographical rivalry among cities in the AFC, with a driving distance of 110 miles along Interstate 74. The next closest is Cleveland-Pittsburgh at 137 miles.
Though the teams are not division rivals, they have met every year but one in preseason since 1992, and they met have met eight times in the regular season and once in the playoffs since 2002.
Memorable I-74 moments: The most memorable regular-season and playoff games against the Indianapolis Colts:
● Oct. 22, 1989: The underdog Colts shocked the defending AFC Champion Bengals 23-12 at Riverfront Stadium. It was the second straight upset loss at home for the '89 Bengals, a powerful team that would outscore its opponents 404-285, but miss the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
● Nov. 20, 1994: The Colts scored on a controversial late TD pass to defeat the Bengals 17-13 at Riverfront. The result stung a Cincinnati crowd of 55,566, which had gathered to celebrate "Blakemania" after seeing QB Jeff Blake deliver his first two victories in the two previous games.
● Sept. 3, 1995: Doug Pelfrey kicked five field goals, including the game-winner from 47 yards in overtime, as the Bengals won 24-21 in the season opener at Indianapolis.
● Dec. 22, 1996: The Bengals outlasted the Colts 31-24 at Cinergy Field in a game that was tied four times. The season-ending victory completed a 5-0 run at home for the Bengals under head coach Bruce Coslet, and Indianapolis was denied the home-field edge for the playoffs.
● Nov. 9, 1997: In the first significant action of his "encore stint" with the Bengals (following four years with other clubs), QB Boomer Esiason led TD drives on his first three possessions to spark a 28-13 Bengals victory at the RCA Dome. The Colts were leading 10-7 in the third quarter when Esiason took the reins for Jeff Blake, who had been shaken up.
● Oct. 6, 2002: The Colts won 28-21 at the RCA Dome, but not without a frantic finish. The Bengals rallied from deficits of 21-0 and 28-14 to pull within
28-21 with 0:53 remaining, and after recovering an onside kick, the Bengals drove to a first down at the Indianapolis 35. But on the next play, a Jon Kitna pass bounced off the hands of then-second-year WR Chad Johnson, and the
Colts intercepted to preserve the win.
● Nov. 20, 2005: The Colts came to Paul Brown Stadium as the NFL's only unbeaten team (9-0), facing a 7-2 Bengals outfit. Indy survived a shootout, winning 45-37. The Colts got three TD passes by Peyton Manning and two rushing scores by Edgerrin James. The Bengals countered with two TD passes by Carson Palmer and two rushing scores by Rudi Johnson.
● Dec. 18, 2006: Peyton Manning threw four TD passes in leading the Colts to a 34-16 win over the Bengals on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The Bengals produced only one TD from five possessions inside the Indianapolis 20. The Colts improved to an 11-3 record while the Bengals fell to 8-6.
● Nov. 14, 2010: The Bengals trailed 17-0 early in the second quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium but closed to 23-17 with 2:35 to play on a TD catch by rookie TE Jermaine Gresham. Cincinnati then recovered an onside kick. But Gresham, who caught an astounding nine passes in the fourth quarter, gave up a fumble (lost) on the first play after the onside recovery.
● Dec. 8, 2013: In a battle of AFC division leaders at Paul Brown Stadium, Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw three TD passes with no interceptions as the Bengals won 42-28. The Bengals improved to 9-4 on the season and maintained a two-game AFC North lead over Baltimore. The Colts fell to 8-5 but clinched the AFC South title later in the day when Tennessee lost at Denver.
● Jan. 4, 2015: Significantly depleted in their receiving corps, the Bengals were no match for the AFC South champion Colts in a Wild Card playoff, falling 26-10 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis QB Andrew luck passed for 376 yards, setting a Bengals opponent playoff record previously held by Joe Montana from Super Bowl XXIII (357).
Bengals-Colts connections: Colts C Ryan Kelly is from Wester Chester, Ohio (Lakota West High School) ... Bengals TE Tyler Eifert is from Fort Wayne, Ind. (Bishop Dwenger High School) and played at the University of Notre Dame ... Bengals WR Chris Brown and CB KeiVarae Russell also played at the University of Notre Dame ... Colts DE Margus Hunt entered the NFL as a second-round draft choice of the Bengals in 2013, and was with Cincinnati through '16 ... Colts G Deyshawn Bond and RB George Winn both played at the University of Cincinnati ... Five Colts players played at Ohio State University: DT Johnathan Hankins, S Malik Hooker, T/G Jack Mewhort, S Tyvis Powell and OLB John Simon. Mewhort is from Toledo, Ohio (St. John's Jesuit High School) ... Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is also from Toledo, Ohio (St. John's Jesuit High School) ... Bengals defensive quality control/defensive line coach Marcus Lewis played at Indiana State University ... Bengals running backs coach Kyle Caskey coached at Indiana State University from 2006-08 ... Colts TE Jack Doyle played at Western Kentucky University ... Colts OLB Tarell Basham played at Ohio University ... Colts assistant offensive line coach Joe Gilbert coached at the University of Toledo from 2001-03 and again in '07 ... Colts assistant head coach/offensive line coach Joe Philbin coached at Ohio University in 1994 ... Colts linebackers coach Jim Herrmann was born in Cincinnati.