Bengals Q&A: Naptown’s Finest Editor Evan Reller
Aug 28, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals center T.J. Johnson (60) against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
We had a chance to talk with Evan Reller, editor for naptownsfinest.com, about the Bengals and Colts matchup on Sunday. Here is what he had to say.
Stripe Hype: Indianapolis looks like they did a complete 180 from the first 2 weeks, What changed for this team to go from 0-2 to 4-2?
Evan Reller: A lot of it had to do with the level of competition. The Broncos and Eagles look like locks for the playoffs this season. Then the Colts played two AFC South opponents who likely won’t have the combined wins for a .500 record. Aside from the schedule, the Colts found out what works best against the Jaguars and Titans and it rolled over into the next two games.
They have been able to generate a pass rush by committee and play tight defense down field. On offense, the Colts are letting loose with Andrew Luck who now leads in passing yards and touchdowns. The team is finally playing to its strengths and its working extremely well.
SH: The Cincinnati Bengals has had previous success, as late as last season, against this Colts team in week 14. How will this game be different for the Colts? How important is it to have this game in Indianapolis compared to Cincinnati?
ER: This game will be different because the Colts have a better team than last season. Also, no AJ Green or Marvin Jones, who had a combined 132 yards and two touchdowns last year, will take some of the pressure off the defense.
Luck is playing at an extremely high level and the Colts haven’t had the sort of slow starts that doomed them in Cincinnati last season. Overall, the Colts are not only playing better but the play calling has put them in a position to succeed.
SH: Andrew Luck seems to have found his stride this season, is he truly this teams MVP and what has changed to make him become better after a slow start?
ER: He has to be in the conversation for MVP and I wouldn’t call five touchdowns in two games a slow start, either. It has a lot to do with the makeup of the offense, Luck’s natural progression, and the weapons he has on the field. The offensive line is also much improved over last season and he isn’t having to make as many throws on the run or absorb the hits he was taking last season.
The return of Reggie Wayne, tight end Dwayne Allen, and Ahmad Bradshaw cannot be understated. The Colts have one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL in TY Hilton and Wayne. And they are still waiting on Hakeem Nicks to have a breakout game.
SH: Outside of Andrew Luck, who are the players to watch on this Colts team?
ER: Allen is having a great season so far and rates in the top five in DVOA for tight ends. He’s second on the team in receiving touchdowns with four, just behind Bradshaw who has five. With the Bengals run defense woes, I’d watch for Bradshaw who has definitely been the better running back this season.
On defense, Bjoern Werner, who’s filled in for Robert Mathis, has put together two very good games and will be looking for a third. Middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman finally played last week after a hamstring injury and looked good. With another week of practice, he’ll be looking for an even better performance than last week.
SH: Who should be on the Colts watch list from this Bengals team?
ER: Mohamed Sanu and Giovanni Bernard are certainly on the list when the Colts are on defense. Limiting both players could seriously impair the Bengals ability to move the ball.
On defense, Carlos Dunlap since he leads the team in sacks and Geno Atkins can be a problem as well. But since the Colts will be looking to pass first, the entire secondary needs to be taken into account as they’ve play extremely well for most of the season.
ER: Home field advantage and a much improved team have the Colts as the favorite. I like them to win a close game on Sunday.