A month or so ago, it looked like the Cincinnati Bengals might finish with more player arrests than wins this season. OK, so that might not change, but it’s only because the Bengals’ winning has matched their arrest record.
That’s not exactly a franchise goal, but one reason their eighth player arrest of the season has been muted is because the Bengals are playing so well. They have won four straight and only one has been within a touchdown.
Though two of the wins have come against Cleveland and the Raiders, the Bengals also beat New Orleans by 15 and won a defensive battle with Baltimore.
Contrast that with Indianapolis, which has lost two straight after a 10-1 start. And the Colts enter this game with major questions about their defense, having allowed 44 points and 375 yards rushing in a loss at Jacksonville last week.
Suddenly, the questions again are being asked about quarterback Peyton Manning and if his legacy will eventually revolve around an inability to win a Super Bowl. Of course, Manning can’t play run defense and that’s the Colts’ biggest problem.
Indianapolis has the NFL’s 18th-ranked defense, but the Colts are last against the run. However, they are No. 2 against the pass. If they can jump on a team early, the game tilts in their favor. But if it’s a tight contest, or a low-scoring affair, the Colts could be in trouble.
Part of the problem on the ground is that the Colts want their ends to rush the passer. So they line up wide, creating gaps inside. And the linebackers aren’t stout against the run. Thanks to injuries, backup safeties are trying to help, with no success.
But the Bengals have not turned their season around because of the run. Quarterback Carson Palmer looks healthy again; he has posted a passer rating of at least 90 in each of the past five games.
The big question for Cincinnati is this: Has the defense really turned it around? The Bengals have largely been horrible this season under coach Marvin Lewis and still rank 26th. But in the four straight wins, they have posted one shutout and allowed a combined 33 points in the other three wins.