Each week, Colts.com will speak with a writer who covers the team the Colts are set to play that upcoming Sunday.
In Week 14, the Colts are facing the Cincinnati Bengals in Paycor Stadium. To gain more insight, we caught up with Geoff Hobson, the senior writer for Bengals.com.
Colts.com: With the Bengals' win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday, Cincinnati has put itself back into the playoff conversation. How big was that win for the locker room and the team's playoff hopes?
Geoff Hobson: You can't tell, which is how Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has built a seemingly bullet-proof culture. They don't get too high, they don't get too low. During the past two years, this team has played in a ton of big games on the way to two straight AFC title game appearances and back-to-back AFC North championships. Another day at the office.
Colts.com: It's never easy for a team to overcome the loss of their franchise quarterback, however, that's the position the Bengals find themselves in. Over the last two starts, how would you describe the job Jake Browning has done?
Geoff Hobson: About as well as you can hope. While replacing Joe Burrow, the NFL's all-time completion percentage leader, Browning has set the NFL record for best completion percentage in a passer's first two NFL starts. He's also improved, taking the Bengals from scoring 10 points at home in a loss to the Steelers in his first start to scoring 34 in overtime in a road win over Jacksonville in his second.
Colts.com: Despite the fact Joe Burrow isn't the one throwing him passes, Ja'Marr Chase has been great these past couple of games, catching 15 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown. How big of a help is it for Browning knowing he has a trustworthy target like Chase out there?
Geoff Hobson: The mantra for a backup QB to succeed is his supporting cast must step up and the two-time Pro Bowler Chase is doing exactly that as he keeps his statistical gems rolling even without Burrow. On Monday night he became the fourth receiver in NFL history with 80 catches and 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons. And he and A.J. Green are the only Bengals with 1,000 yards in each of their first three seasons.
Colts.com: Though he may not get a lot of national recognition, Trey Hendrickson is having one of the best seasons of his career. Getting at least one sack in each of the past three games, what is it that has made him so impactful?
Geoff Hobson: His first step off the line at right end is legendary, forcing double teams that open it up for left end Sam Hubbard's five sacks this season and nose tackle DJ Reader's six pressures on Monday night. Hendrickson needs three sacks to break his Bengals season sack record of 14 in 2021.
Colts.com: Through the first 12 games of the season, the Bengals have allowed an average of 133.3 rushing yards per game, which is the fifth-highest mark in the NFL. On the opposite sideline, the Colts are 12th in the league in rushing yards per game (115.8 yards). What is the Bengals' defense going to have to do to slow down their rushing attack?
Geoff Hobson: Play like it did Monday night, when they allowed the Jags just 2.8 yards per carry for a total of 71 yards. They're capable enough to do it. Also in their first 12 games, they've allowed fewer than 88 yards rushing four times and are 4-0.