INDIANAPOLIS – Continuing a long tradition of playing in the preseason, the Indianapolis Colts will make the bus ride eastward on Interstate-74 to meet the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. (ET).
This year's meeting marks the 19th time in the past 20 years the Colts and Bengals have met in the preseason. Cincinnati won last year's preseason game, 30-28, at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The two cities sit only 110 miles apart from each other, which is the closest among a pair of teams in the AFC. (Cleveland and Pittsburgh are 137 miles apart.)
Unlike the first three opponents the Colts have seen in the preseason, Indianapolis will see Cincinnati in the regular season with a road contest on October 16.
The Bengals come into the final game of the preseason with a 1-2 record, having defeated the Carolina Panthers, 24-13, last week.
In a first half that included a majority of both teams' first units, the Bengals rushed for 130 yards, while rookie quarterback Andy Dalton threw for 139 yards.
Head Coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals staff revamped their roster in the off-season replacing Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens with the No. 4 pick in April's NFL Draft in wide receiver A.J. Green.
A pleasant sight of the future for Bengals fans took place in the second quarter against the Panthers when Dalton and Green connected on a 40-yard scoring play.
Green and 2010 first-round draft pick Jermaine Gresham are expected to be a couple of main targets for the rookie quarterback. Gresham battled injuries at the tight end position in college, but he still recorded 52 catches for 471 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie campaign.
Protecting Dalton figures not to be an issue as Cincinnati brings back all the significant contributors on a unit that finished 2010 second in the AFC in fewest sacks allowed.
On defense, the Bengals also made some changes by adding free agent linebackers Thomas Howard (Oakland) and Manny Lawson (San Francisco). They are expected to flank middle linebacker Ray Maualuga in the starting unit.
Fifth-year cornerback Leon Hall has played in all 65 games of his NFL career. Free agent addition and former Pro Bowl corner Nate Clements (San Francisco) is expected to play opposite Hall.
A couple of facts to look at before Thursday night's kickoff:
-Since 2003, the Colts rank second in the NFL in turnover differential with a plus-73 figure. The Bengals rank fifth at plus-32.
-Lewis is 6-0 against the Colts in the preseason, and he is 0-4 against the Colts in the regular season.
-The Bengals did not allow a sack in their final 100 passing plays last season.