INDIANAPOLIS – For the third straight season, the Colts are back in the postseason after capturing the AFC South.
On Sunday, the Colts (11-5) and Bengals (10-5-1) will meet for the second time this season.
What should fans be looking for when the Colts enter the postseason?
1. Stopping The Run
-For a plethora of reasons, the Bengals offensive focus on Sunday is going to include a large emphasis on the team's ground game. Rookie Jeremy Hill is a totally different back from the first time the Colts saw the Bengals this season. To take pressure off of Andy Dalton and keep the Colts crowd quiet, the Bengals will force feed the 239-pound rookie running back.
2. No Friendly Fire
-In the Colts three postseason contests the last two seasons, protecting the football has been an issue. Players know that this time of year any extra possessions given to opposing offenses can be quite costly. The Colts have struggled in committing turnovers this season and the Bengals have an opportune secondary with some talented cornerbacks.
3. Protecting Andrew Luck
-In all likelihood, the Colts will see their 11th different offensive line combination on Sunday. With more new bodies on the right side of the line, the Colts have to keep Andrew Luck upright. The good news for the Colts is the Bengals pass rush ranked 32nd in the NFL this season with just 20 sacks.
4. Playing From Ahead
-While Week 17 meant very little in terms of playoff seeding for the Colts, the offense did get off to a much better start compared to previous weeks. With the Bengals wanting to establish a consistent ground game, any early lead for the Colts would make the visitors re-think their game plan. Also, a quick start would ignite the 60,000 and change inside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
5. A.J. Green's Health
-It looks like the Bengals will not have the services of Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green on Sunday. Green is listed as doubtful, but if he does play the Colts will have a decision to make in terms of how they cover Green. Does Vontae Davis shadow the fellow Pro Bowler or will the Colts stick with their normal defensive alignment? Green did not play in the team's first meeting this season due to a toe injury.
6. Hit A Few Chunks
-As the Colts have had to adjust offensive personnel down the stretch, the threat of the big play hasn't been as frequent. Of course the health of T.Y. Hilton's hamstring is a major weapon in that department. One year ago Sunday, it was Hilton and Luck connecting on several massive gains to spark one of the biggest comebacks in NFL postseason history.
7. Seize The Opportunity
-Just 12 teams remain in January with over half of the league having started their 2015 offseason. This marks the third straight year the Colts have made the playoffs with hopes to extend previous runs. In listening to players and coaches this week, you get the sense that they realize how grateful of an opportunity they have with numerous playoff experienced players on both sides of the ball.