Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts: Pedigree Colts to ease past Bengals

In the Red: Andy Dalton has produced more turnovers than TDs this season
In the Red: Andy Dalton has produced more turnovers than TDs this season

The third of this weekend's NFL Wildcard games sees Andrew Luck's Indianapolis host Andy Dalton's Cincinnati in a game which could mirror their Week Seven showdown, according to our analyst Neil Harvey...

"The Bengals have lost all eight of their play-off games on the road, suggesting that this trip to the Lucas Oil Stadium is set to end in another slip-up."

Indianapolis (-3.5) to beat Cincinnati @ 2.001/1

Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts
Sunday January 4, 18:05
Live on Sky Sports 2

Here's a significant fact. When these same two sides met at the same venue in Week Seven, it resulted in 27-0 win for Indianapolis, with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck throwing for 344 yards and two touchdowns in the shutout victory. 

So how can the Bengals hope to turn around such a one-sided result this Sunday? Well their biggest chance of achieving this would have been the addition of star-receiver AJ Green. That balloon has been well and truly burst though with the news that Green will miss this game with a concussion. Beyond that, the main addition to Cincinnati's offensive prowess has been the emergence of Jeremy Hill as the team's premier running back. Back in Week Seven, Hill was playing second fiddle to Giovani Bernard. It's Hill though who now carries the bulk of possession, and hopes, for the Bengal's ground game. 

In that previous meeting, both Bernard and Hill saw little of the ball. This was largely down to the Bengals going behind early and deciding to abandon the run. That proved a mistake. And it's one they're unlikely to repeat, even if the Colts get off to another flyer. So expect Hill to see a lot of the ball. And that should see him chalking up some big yards, against a Colts run-defense that's been exposed time and again as woefully sub-par this season. Remember how Jonas Gray achieved instant fame for the Patriots by running through the Colts for four touchdowns and more than 200 yards? Well, Hill won't do that, but his quote of 88 rushing yards looks eminently achievable.

The problem for the Bengals though is going to be keeping pace with Andrew Luck and his receiving unit. The likely absence of veteran Reggie Wayne is arguably a bonus, with lightning-in-a-bottle rookie Donte Montcrief standing by to fill in. It's TY Hilton though about whom the Bengal's D will be having nightmares, after he posted more than 1,300 yards in the regular season as part of Indy's league-best passing offense. 

This match-up looks a lot like the one between Pittsburgh's offense and the Bengals defense last weekend, when Big Ben shredded Cincy for more than 300 yards in a 27-17 win. Luck and co. are a more potent offensive force than the Steelers and should be more than capable of matching that effort. That said though, the Bengals have given up almost as many rushing touchdowns as they have passing ones (16 versus 18) this season. And with Trent Richardson likely out for this game, that gives Dan Herron a major chance of living up to his nickname 'Boom' and hitting paydirt once the Colts get within striking distance.

Under centre for the Bengals, 'Red' Dalton has a poor record in the big games. The lack of his main receiving weapon Green won't help, leaving him with just Mohammed Sanu - a poor man's Green. But the fact is, it's not just Dalton who falters in the limelight. The Bengals have lost all eight of their play-off games on the road, suggesting that this trip to the Lucas Oil Stadium is set to end in another slip-up.

The truth is that both these sides struggle to stop the run. And in theory that should set up both passing offenses to have a good game. Luck though is a cut above his opposite number and has by far the better receivers at his disposal. Once the Bengals go behind, as they inevitably will at some point, they'll turn to Dalton to get them out of a hole. Except he has a habit of making that hole even bigger, as illustrated by his 20 turnovers to 19 touchdowns for this season. So the fact that the Bengals have a minus 11 turnover record in post-season games under Head Coach Marvin Lewis now looks a particularly bad omen, with Dalton likely to end up giving away possession like some kind of tardy Santa Claus.

Indianapolis can win this one with room to spare, but a look at their regular season results reveals that only three of their nine home fixtures went above the points quote for this game. So I suggest backing a repeat of Week Seven's result, with the Colts cantering home, but keeping Bengals scoring to a minimum, in a one-sided but low-scoring affair.

Recommended Bets
Indianapolis (-3.5) to beat Cincinnati @ 2.001/1    
Indianapolis (-1.5) to beat Cincinnati at Half Time @ 1.9110/11 or better
Total Points to be Under 48.5 @ 2.001/1
Total Points at Half Time to be Under 24.5 @ 2.001/1
Jeremy Hill Rushing yards to be more than 88.5 @ 1.9110/11 or better  
Dan Herron (Indy) to score anytime touchdown @ 2.206/5 or better

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