Colts Won't Be Facing the Week 7 Bengals in Playoffs

It's a much different looking opponent than the one Indianapolis beat week 7 for the franchise's 500th victory.

INDIANAPOLIS --- When Indianapolis faces Cincinnati Sunday afternoon in an AFC Wild Card playoff game, the Colts will not be facing the same Bengals team it beat 27-0 week 7 in their most dominating and impressive win of the season. It's a different looking Cincinnati team on both sides of the ball.

"It doesn't mean anything," said safety Mike Adams Monday when asked about the Colts regular season win over the Bengals. But you can still look at that tape, right Mike? "For what?"

Exactly. The Bengals had six key players injured that day:

SLB Emmanuel Lamur (starter, 3rd on team with 91 tackles)

MLB Rey Maualuga (starter, missed 4 games but played the last 7)

DT Bryant Thompson (rotates in on the DL, 21 tackles this year)

CB Leon Hall (played week 7 but left game early with strained lower back)

MLB Vontaze Burfict (played week 7 but left game early with back sprain, now on IR)

WR A.J. Green (Pro Bowler 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)

Bengals Offense Now Leans on RB Jeremy Hill

A.J. Green suffered a concussion at Pittsburgh Sunday night. His status is uncertain again against the Colts as he enters the league's concussion protocol. Obviously, he's a huge part of the offense, but the Bengals are a run-first team and have made a big change in the backfield since getting shutout week 7. They have made rookie Jeremy Hill their primary ball carrier over Giovani Bernard, and he's flourished. Look at Hill's numbers:

Hill Week 7 vs. Colts: 4 carries, 15 yards

1st 7 Games: 7.1 carries per game, 3.9 yards per carry

Last 9 Games: 19.1 carries per game, 5.4 yards per carry

Last 3 Games: 23.3 carries per game, 5.6 yards per carry (131 yards per game)

Hill has not only become the primary weapon in a run heavy offense but is also the hottest running back in the NFL entering the postseason with the most rushing yards over the past month. The Bengals this season have run the ball 49.4% of the time (5th most in the NFL). Over the past three weeks, that number has jumped to 53.7% of the time, and in the Bengals 10 wins, they've run it a whopping 56% of the time.

On the flipside, the Colts revamped rush defense will be tested right out of the gate in the postseason. Over the past 6 weeks, Indianapolis is allowing just 3.7 yards per carry to opposing running backs. This match-up could be the biggest key in the game.

Bengals Defense Has Reinforcements Ready

The Colts offense racked up 506 yards of offense on the Bengals defense week 7. They also rushed for 171 yards at a 5 yard per carry clip. Trent Richardson led the charge with 14 carries for 77 yards (5.5 ypc). That won't be the defense Indianapolis sees in the playoffs.

As outlined above, five key defensive players didn't play or left the game early week 7 for Cincinnati at Lucas Oil Stadium. All but Burfict will be back (IR, knee). The Browns also lost badly week 10 on a Thursday night to Cleveland 24-3. After that, MLB Rey Maualuga returned and has played the last seven games for the Bengals. Here's how much the defense has improved in that span compared to their overall season numbers:

Bengals D Last 7 Games: 19 pts/g allowed, 235.4 pass yards allowed, 82 rush yards allowed

Bengals D 2014 overall: 21.5 pts/g allowed, 243 pass yards allowed, 116 rush yards allowed

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To sum it all up, the Colts are preparing for a different Cincinnati team in the postseason. The players said as much Monday, having already as a team watched the tape of the Bengals' week 17 loss to the Steelers.

So can the Colts beat the Bengals again? With hard work and preparation, sure, but don't make the mistake of saying it will be because they already did week 7.

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