The Cincinnati Bengals are suddenly back in the playoff picture after knocking off the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday Night Football. Now they'll remain in the AFC South this week, as the Indianapolis Colts are coming to Paycor Stadium.
If the season ended right now, the Colts would be the six-seed in the AFC playoffs while the Bengals would be on the outside looking in. A win over the Colts would be huge for the Bengals for tiebreaker implications but can they get it done?
Last week, we saw the offense come to life under Jake Browning, who threw for over 300 yards in his second NFL start. The Jags pass rush didn't get to Browning much, only taking him to the ground twice.
The Colts pass rush, however, might not be as easy to contain. When I spoke to Jaleel Grandberry of Horseshoe Heroes, FanSided's site dedicated to the Indianapolis Colts, he said the Colts' pass rush was the strength of the team. Check out our entire conversation below.
Colts pass-rush could deal Bengals OL fits in Week 14
Q: The Colts would be in the playoff picture right now if the season ended today. What are the chances of them actually getting in? If they get in, how far do you think they can go?
Jaleel: Entering the season, not many people expected Indianapolis to be in the playoff race. However, the team has exceeded expectations, and with just five regular-season games left, a postseason appearance seems likely. While the Colts are a competitive team, the biggest factor for their playoff hopes is the weak remaining schedule. The Houston Texans and the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only teams on Indy’s remaining schedule with a winning record. The Colts already beat Houston earlier this year, and the Steelers are, well, the 2023 Steelers.
As far as what Indy will do once in the postseason, no one’s expecting a Super Bowl, but this is a tough team that could upset anyone in the wild-card round.
Q: What is the Colts' biggest strength? What is their biggest weakness?
Jaleel: For the majority of the season, the run game has been what Indy has consistently relied on. With Jonathan Taylor, Zack Moss, and a restored offensive line, Indianapolis has had its way on the ground. However, in recent weeks, Indy’s young pass rush has stolen the spotlight. During the Colts’ four-game win streak, the team has 21 sacks. On the season, Indianapolis has 42 total sacks, which is second in the NFL.
The weakness for the team would be the lows of Gardner Minshew, which show up a few times throughout every game. Having Minshew as a backup has saved the Colts’ season. Still, he makes several costly mistakes every week that make games harder than they need to be.
Q: The MVP of the Colts season so far is ______.
Jaleel: The Colts have several players who are having great individual seasons but the MVP for the year has been the offensive line. All of them. Bad offensive line play was the main reason Indy was 4-12-1 just a season ago. Indianapolis didn’t really make changes to the group, the unit just simply improved. Now, the offensive line, along with the genius of Shane Steichen, is why Indy has one of the most productive offenses in the league.
Q: A Colts player that people might not have heard of but is balling out this year is _____?
Jaleel: Defensive end Samson Ebukam, who spent his first four seasons in the league with the Los Angeles Rams, and then two years with the San Francisco 49ers, was signed by Indianapolis this offseason. Through 12 games, Ebukam already has a career-high eight sacks and eight tackles for a loss. He recorded two sacks in each of Indy’s last two games and is leading a relentless pass rush with young guys like Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo.
Q: In one sentence, tell us how you think this game will go.
Jaleel: The Colts will make the game more complicated than it needs to be but they’ll eventually lean on their strengths and best players to take care of business.
Q: The Colts will win this game if _____.
Jaleel: The Colts will win this game if they can get after the quarterback. It’s not a coincidence that Indy’s win streak started once the defensive line finally emerged. If Indy wants to stop Jake Browning from getting the ball into the hands of Cincinnati’s dynamic weapons, the Colts have to harass him.
Q: Give us a score prediction.
Jaleel: Colts win 24-17
Thanks again to Jaleel for taking the time to talk to me ahead of this week's match-up. Be sure to check out his work over on Horseshoe Heroes!