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Game Preview: Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts

William Jackson, CB

Bengals 1st Round Pick

2016 NFL Draft
William Jackson, CB Bengals 1st Round Pick 2016 NFL Draft

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. Broadcasters are Andrew Catalon (play-by-play), James Lofton (analyst) and Jane Slater (analyst). In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington, Ky.

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations 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 open their 2018 regular season on Sunday with a 112-mile trip across I-74, where they will face the Indianapolis Colts at 1 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. The matchup is the second for the two teams in just over a week, as they met Aug. 30 in their preseason finale. That preseason contest resulted in a 27-26 Colts win, but it of course did not have the importance the opener will this Sunday.

"It really is exciting to be at this point," said Marvin Lewis, who on Sunday begins his 16th season as Bengals head coach. "I'm excited about where we are, and I'm excited about our preparation this week to play a game and win. (The players) worked hard, and now we're at the point where everything you do counts for real."

The Bengals' offense this season will be under the direction of coordinator Bill Lazor, who took over the post after Week 2 last season. But the 2018 offense will have a different look and feel from last year, after Lazor spent the offseason installing his own system. It will again be led by QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green, who just a few short years ago were the faces of a young Bengals offensive core. Now both 30 years old, the duo enters 2018, their eighth season together, as the two oldest players on offense. Dalton and Green will be joined by a host of young talent, including second-year HB Joe Mixon (22 years old), third-year WR Tyler Boyd (23), and second-year WRs John Ross (22) and Josh Malone (22). Sixth-year TE Tyler Eifert (28) also figures to play a significant role. 

Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who spent the last four seasons in the same position with the Detroit Lions, will lead a mixture of productive veterans and young talent in his first year with the Bengals. Returning on defense are two-time Pro Bowl DE Carlos Dunlap and six-time Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins, who each signed contract extensions last week that will keep them in Cincinnati through the 2021 and '22 seasons, respectively. They'll be joined by a bevy of young talent, including third-year CB William Jackson (25), rookie S Jessie Bates (21), third-year DT Andrew Billings (23), second-year DEs Carl Lawson (23) and Jordan Willis (23), third-year LB Nick Vigil (25) and Jordan Evans (23).

The Bengals' youth movement has become a noteworthy story this season. The 53-man roster as of Sept. 4 included 35 players at age 25 or younger. If that number holds for kickoff on Sunday, it would be the most ever on a Bengals opening-day roster, edging out the 1993 team, which had 34. Last year's opening-day roster, which had a mere 23 players age 25 or younger, was the youngest in head coach Marvin Lewis' tenure, at an average age of 25.45. This year's roster is even younger, with an average age of 25.38 (as of Sept. 4).

The Bengals' youth has been fueled by 22 draft selections over the last two years. Sixteen of those picks currently are on the roster, including eight who have yet to play in a game. None of those players are over the age of 24. 

Asked how he might approach his youthful team differently than others, Lewis joked, "We have to make sure we feed them dinner every night (laughs). We don't know what they're going to eat (otherwise)."

A first look at the 2018 Cincinnati Bengals 53-man roster for Opening Day.

The Bengals and Colts last met in regular season in 2017, with Cincinnati earning a 24-23 win at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals have won three of the last five meetings, dating back to Dalton and Green's rookie season in 2011.

The series: The Colts lead 19-11 overall (17-11 regular season, and 2-0 postseason), including 11-6 as the home team and 4-0 at Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008.

The Colts franchise was in Baltimore prior to 1984. Overall, the Bengals were 4-5 against the Baltimore Colts and now stand 7-14 against the Indianapolis Colts.

Team bests from the series:

Bengals — MOST POINTS: 42, in a 42-28 win in 2013 at Paul Brown

Stadium. LARGEST VICTORY MARGIN: 22, a 41-19 win at Baltimore in 1981.

FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED: 9, in a 9-6 loss at Cincinnati in 1993.

Colts — MOST POINTS: 45, in a 45-37 win at Paul Brown Stadium in

2005. LARGEST VICTORY MARGIN: 32, in a 35-3 Colts win at Indianapolis in

2008. FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED: 0 (twice), in a 17-0 playoff win at Baltimore in 1970 and in a 27-0 regular-season win at Indy in 2014.

The last meetings: Summaries of the last two Bengals-Colts meetings are on page 13 of this news release.

Bengals vs. Colts, Part 2: In a scheduling oddity, the Bengals and Colts will play this weekend for the second time in as many games, after the two faced off in the preseason finale on Aug. 30 (Colts won, 27-26). This weekend's meeting will mark the first time in Bengals history that the team will play the same opponent in the preseason finale and regular-season opener.

The last instance of this happening league-wide was in 2014, with the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers. The Chargers won 12-9 in the preseason finale in San Diego, while the Cardinals took the regular-season opener in Arizona, 18-17.

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 played each other somewhat frequently, including in eight of the past 13 regular seasons. Preseason also has played a role in keeping the rivalry alive, as the clubs have met 26 of the last 27 years in a tune-up game.

Bengals-Colts connections: Colts C Ryan Kelly is from West Chester, Ohio (Lakota West High School) ... Colts TE Ryan Hewitt entered the NFL as a college free agent signee of the Bengals in 2014, and was with the team until last week (Sept. 1) ... Bengals TE Tyler Eifert is from Fort Wayne, Ind., and played at the University of Notre Dame ... Bengals S Jessie Bates is from Fort Wayne, Ind. ... Colts DT Margus Hunt was a second-round draft pick of the Bengals in 2013, and was with Cincinnati through '16 ... Colts WR James Wright (Reserve/Injured) was a seventh-round draft pick of the Bengals in 2014, and was with Cincinnati until the 2016 season ... Colts S Malik Hooker and DT/DE and Tyquan Lewis (Reserve/Injured) both played at Ohio State University ...Colts DE Tarell Basham played at Ohio University ... Bengals CB KeiVarae Russell (practice squad) played at the University of Notre Dame ... Colts T Tyreek Burwell (Reserve/Injured) played at the University of Cincinnati ... Colts S Robenson Therezie (Reserve/Injured) was on the Bengals' practice squad late last season ... Colts offensive quality control coach Gunnard Twyner played for the Bengals in 1997 ... Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is from Toledo, Ohio, and played (1988-91) and coached ('92-2000) at the University of Toledo ... Bengals defensive quality control/linebackers coach Marcus Lewis played at Indiana State University from 2008-11 ... Colts defensive backs/cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon played (2002) and coached ('06) at the University of Louisville ... Colts assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson played (1992-94) and coached ('99-2004) at Miami (Ohio) University ... Bengals running backs coach Kyle Caskey coached at Indiana State University from 2006-08 ... Colts tight ends coach Tom Manning coached at the University of Toledo from 2009-10 and '12-15 ... Colts defensive line coach Mike Phair coached at Tiffin University in 2001.