Bengals at Colts: Three Keys and a Prediction for Sunday's Matchup

James Rapien

CINCINNATI — The Bengals enter Sunday's matchup against the Colts hoping to bounce back after last week's blowout loss to the Ravens. 

Cincinnati is 1-3-1 on the season. Indianapolis is also trying to rebound from a Week 5 loss. They're 3-2 on the year following the 32-23 loss to the Browns. 

The Bengals have the talent to compete with the Colts, but can the execute well enough to pull off the upset?

Here are three keys to victory and a prediction for Sunday's matchup.

Stopping Taylor 

The Bengals won't have DJ Reader for the rest of the season. Sam Hubbard is also out for at least three weeks. They need someone to step up on defense, specifically in the running game. 

The Colts are going to lean on rookie running back Jonathan Taylor. He has 307 yards and three touchdowns in five games this season. Left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly and right guard Mark Glowinski are arguably the best interior offensive line trio in the NFL. 

Without Reader, the Bengals are going to need Geno Atkins to play at an elite level, even though it's only his second game of the season. 

They're also going to need Christian Covington, newly signed Xavier Williams and the rest of the defensive tackles to play well. 

The Bengals' young linebackers are another important piece of the puzzle. Can Germaine Pratt, Akeem Davis-Gaither and Logan Wilson tackle in open space, shed blocks and use their athleticism to keep Taylor in check? 

If the Bengals can slow down the rookie, then 38-year-old Philip Rivers will have to lean on his arm, which favors Cincinnati. 

The Colts receivers are underwhelming and Rivers is bound to make a mistake or two, which means Darius Phillips, Jessie Bates and the rest of the Bengals' secondary should be excited for this matchup.

Play-Calling

The Bengals' offense needs to be much better this week than it was against the Ravens. It's up to head coach Zac Taylor, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and the rest of the coaches to find a way to put these players in a position to succeed. 

Good coaches get their best players in space. That means Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd and Green should all find themselves open at various times on Sunday. 

The Bengals have flaws in different areas. The coaches have to scheme around them in hopes of keeping Joe Burrow upright.

One way to hide a poor offensive line is to allow them to block less. You can only do that with big plays down the field. Instead of slowly moving the ball, Cincinnati has to find a way to create a long touchdown or two. 

It's why John Ross should be active moving forward. Even if he is, it's up to these offensive coaches to show their worth. Get creative and do whatever it takes to put Burrow in an advantageous position.

Blocking Buckner

DeForest Buckner has been an absolute game wrecker so far this season. The Bengals' guards are arguably the worst duo in the NFL. 

He has 23 tackles and 1.5 sacks this season, but the numbers don't tell the entire story. 

Buckner has been the best player on the Colts' defense up until this point.  

On the flip side, the Bengals guards have been awful this season. They've allowed 36 combined pressures according to Pro Football Focus. 

Limiting that number is going to be much easier said than done on Sunday. If they can somehow generate any kind of push in the running game and keep Burrow upright, then the Bengals have a good shot of pulling off the upset.

All-Time Record

The Colts lead the series 19-12, which includes two postseason victories over the Bengals. They're 4-1 against Cincinnati at Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008.

Prediction: The Bengals desperately need a win and even though the Colts have a better record, Cincinnati has just as much talent.

If (Zac) Taylor can get the offense going and the defense plays anywhere close to the level in played at against the Ravens last week, then they're going to shock some people. 

This feels like the week Cincinnati puts together a complete game. Randy Bullock makes the winning kick as time expires. 

Final Score: Bengals 23, Colts 20

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