Set to take center stage in a crucial AFC Wild Card race, the Cincinnati Bengals welcome the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts bring a commendable four-game winning streak to Cincinnati, setting the stage for a matchup laden with playoff implications. On the flip side, the Bengals arrive with newfound confidence following an impressive prime-time road victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, marking their first win with Jake Browning leading the charge. As the weekend approaches, the Colts hold the No. 6 seed, while the Bengals trail closely at No. 10 in the AFC standings, heightening the stakes for this pivotal clash.
The Colts have reason to be grateful for Moss stepping up as the starter while Jonathan Taylor recovers from a thumb injury. However, this upcoming matchup doesn't seem promising for offensive production. Moss, who regained the starting role just last week, hasn't surpassed 70 rushing yards since Week 5. The Bengals have allowed only four running backs to exceed that mark this season. Expect Cincinnati to crowd the box and challenge Gardner Minshew to excel through the air. While Moss has had his moments, betting on him in this scenario appears to be a tough call given the circumstances.
In his second NFL start, the backup quarterback, Browning, delivered a memorable performance on Monday night. Previously spending most of his career on practice squads, Browning completed 32 out of 37 passes for 354 yards, threw a touchdown, and added another score on the ground in the 34-31 victory over Jacksonville.
This win not only leveled the Bengals' record at 6-6, but injected a significant boost of confidence. Browning showcased his ability to win in the NFL, and with AFC North rivals Pittsburgh and Cleveland losing last week, Cincinnati's playoff hopes remain alive with five games left. Both teams are vying for a playoff spot, and Cincinnati must secure a victory against the 7-5 Colts to maintain a realistic shot at postseason contention for the third consecutive year.
Facing a formidable passing defense this week, Cincinnati is up against the Colts, who only allow 222.1 passing yards per game, ranking 17th in the NFL. Despite starting the season 3-4, Shane Steichen's team has proven to be a resilient, blue-collar squad that will do whatever it takes to win, evident in their four-game winning streak. Notably, the Colts will be without E.J. Speed for the first time this season, downgrading their starting linebacker for the road game against the Bengals. Second-round rookie cornerback JuJu Brents, returning from a quad injury, is also ruled out. Darrell Baker Jr. and seventh-round rookie Jaylon Jones will continue to start at outside cornerback, facing the challenge of containing the Bengals' receiving duo of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, even with backup quarterback Jake Browning stepping in after Joe Burrow's season-ending wrist injury.
In the relentless pursuit of playoff contention, the Colts find themselves perched at a precarious 7-5, urgently needing a victory to keep pace in the densely populated AFC wildcard race. As the gridiron drama unfolds, each play, decision, and moment becomes a pivotal brushstroke on the canvas of their postseason ambitions. I believe the Colts will struggle but will ultimately secure a hard-fought win and keep themselves in the playoff race.
Indianapolis Colts: 27, Cincinnati Bengals: 24
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