INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals will actually square off in their annual preseason finale a week and a half prior to this matchup in Cincinnati.
Both teams are trying to regroup following disappointing 2017 seasons in which they combined for an 11-21 record. The teams have made plenty of changes to try and better their situations, so let’s take a look at what lies ahead.
- Sunday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. ET
- Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium)
- TV — CBS
- Colts lead, 17-11 (2-0 in playoffs)
- Last game — Week 8 of 2017; Bengals won, 24-23
- HC Frank Reich
- OC Nick Sirianni
- DC Matt Eberflus
- STC Bubba Ventrone
- HC Marvin Lewis
- OC Bill Lazor
- DC Teryl Austin
- STC Darrin Simmons
KEY NEW FACES
- OG Quenton Nelson
- TE Eric Ebron
- WR Ryan Grant
- RB Nyheim Hines
- DT/DE Denico Autry
- OT Cordy Glenn
- C Billy Price
- LB Preston Brown
- S Jessie Bates III
- LB Malik Jefferson
OTHER SIGNIFICANT CHANGES
- The Colts got an almost entirely new coaching staff this offseason, and general manager Chris Ballard went into his second offseason of flipping the roster.
- With the coaching change came a switch to a 4-3, Tampa-2 style defense from the hybrid 3-4 defense.
- From 2017 to 2018, there could be a dozen or more new starters.
- One of those new starters will be at running back. Frank Gore is now on the Miami Dolphins, so a new face will be stepping into the starting tailback spot.
- The Bengals have a new defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin after Paul Guenther left for the Oakland Raiders.
- They brought in a talented rookie class. How much will players like Jessie Bates, Malik Jefferson, Sam Hubbard, Mark Walton and Auden Tate play with established starters already in front of them?
- The Return Of Andrew Luck — Although the expectation is we will have seen Luck in training camp and at some point during the preseason, Luck’s return might be the biggest Week 1 storyline in the entire NFL.
- Any Improvement From The Offensive Lines? — The offensive line for both teams struggled last year. Football Outsiders ranked the Colts as the No. 18 run blocking line and No. 32 pass blocking line. They ranked the Bengals as the No. 24 run blocking line and No. 20 pass blocking line. Indianapolis added Austin Howard, Quenton Nelson, Matt Slauson and Braden Smith this offseason while Cincinnati added Cordy Glenn, Bobby Hart, Billy Price and Rod Taylor.
- The Colts’ New Defense — There are a ton of new faces in the Colts’ new defense. Rather than having three down linemen, two outside rushing linebackers and two off-ball linebackers, the Colts will now have four down linemen who are counted on to provide the pass rush and three off-ball linebackers. Due to the frequent use of sub-packages, the Colts will substitute one or two of the three linebackers for an extra defensive back or two. Of the 11 defenders who started Week 1 last year against the Los Angeles Rams, we could see at least nine different starters.
- Second-year studs? — Both teams have a handful of second-year players due for a breakout. For the Colts, running back Marlon Mack, defensive end Tarell Basham, linebacker Anthony Walker, cornerbacks Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston and safety Malik Hooker could all be starters by Week 1. For the Bengals, running back Joe Mixon, wide receiver John Ross and edge defender Carl Lawson all look to grow and improve upon their rookie seasons.
- Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Bengals CB William Jackson III — The Colts’ star receiver goes up against a third-year stud who led all NFL corners in catch percentage in 2017.
- Colts CB Quincy Wilson vs. Bengals WR A.J. Green — The Colts’ young, possibly top corner gets one of his biggest matchups to date. Green has been a top-five NFL receiver throughout his career.
- Colts OG Quenton Nelson vs. Bengals DT Geno Atkins — Nelson is widely considered the best interior line prospect to come out of the draft in years. His very first matchup is against one of the best interior defenders in the league.
- Passing — QB Jacoby Brissett (3,098 yards)
- Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (358 yards)
- Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (966 yards)
- Touchdowns — QB Jacoby Brissett, WR T.Y. Hilton, TE Jack Doyle (4)
- Tackles — LB Antonio Morrison (108 total)
- Sacks — DE Jabaal Sheard (5.5)
- Interceptions — S Malik Hooker (3)
- Passing — QB Andy Dalton (3,320 yards)
- Rushing — RB Joe Mixon (626 yards)
- Receiving — WR A.J. Green (1,078 yards)
- Touchdowns — WR A.J. Green (8)
- Tackles — LB Vincent Rey, CB Darqueze Dennard (85 total)
- Sacks — DT Geno Atkins (9.0)
- Interceptions — CB Darqueze Dennard (2)
COMPARING 2017 STATS
- Total offense — 31st (284.8 YPG)
- Scoring offense — 30th (16.4 PPG)
- Passing offense — 30th (180.8 YPG)
- Running offense — 22nd (103.8 YPG)
- Total defense — 30th (367.1 YPG)
- Scoring defense — 30th (25.2 PPG)
- Passing defense — 28th (246.6 YPG)
- Sacks — 31st (25)
- Running defense — 26th (120.4 YPG)
- Time of possession — 22nd (29:41)
- Turnover margin — 13th (+5)
- Total offense — 32nd (280.5 YPG)
- Scoring offense — 26th (18.1 PPG)
- Passing offense — 27th (195.1 YPG)
- Running offense — 31st (85.4 YPG)
- Total defense — 18th (339.1 YPG)
- Scoring defense — 16th (21.8 PPG)
- Passing defense — 8th (211.2 YPG)
- Sacks — 11th (41)
- Running defense — 30th (127.9 YPG)
- Time of possession — 32nd (27:18)
- Turnover margin — 27th (-9)