INDIANAPOLIS – One more game remains before the Colts hit their bye week in 2020.
It’ll be the Colts taking on No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow and the Bengals this Sunday inside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Here are 7 things to watch for as the Colts (3-2) face the Bengals (1-3-1) at 1:00:
1. Finishing Drives
This has been the biggest thing holding back the Colts in 2020.
Offensively, the Colts are moving the ball at an adequate enough rate (actually better than they did this time last year), but they are unable to finish off drives at a high enough level.
What will be the red zone spark for the Colts? Some Wildcat looks? Trying that Jacoby Brissett package again? Simply better execution?
2. Breakout Game For Jonathan Taylor
With 12 carries for 57 yards last week against the Browns, the Colts felt like that was the best game of Jonathan Taylor’s young career.
You have to think a Taylor breakout game (100 yards rushing, more than 4.0 yards per carry, a touchdown, etc) is on the horizon.
Well, good news for Taylor and the Colts—the Bengals are 30th against the run this season and lost some key defensive line members in last week’s loss to the Ravens.
3. Pass Rush Discipline
In facing a few more athletic QBs this season, the Colts have struggled a bit to create a consistent pass rush, and finish off those plays.
Lately, Matt Eberflus’ unit has produced just 2 sacks in the last two games (80 pass attempts).
Joe Burrow is on pace to get sacked an incredible 70 times this season. He is a guy who can create plays with his legs though, so the Colts need to remain disciplined in their rush responsibilities.
4. Don’t Let Mixon Beat You
If you were to pick the ‘best player’ on the Bengals or the ‘most dangerous’ it’s probably running back Joe Mixon.
Coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Mixon is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, but is still producing 74.8 rushing yards per game.
The Colts have been extremely sound with their run defense this season, but Mixon is one of the more talented backs they’ll see all season.
5. Return Of Anthony Castonzo
It’s looking like the Colts will be getting their reliable left tackle back on Sunday.
Anthony Castonzo was sorely missed against the Browns.
His return doesn’t come against a great pressure team by any means, but it gives needed stability and allows for Frank Reich to deploy his skill guys out on routes more freely.
6. Control Field Position
When you are a touchdown-favorite at home against a rookie quarterback, the biggest key is not giving that team a short field(s).
The Colts have been outstanding this season in controlling field position.
Stay away from the catastrophic turnover and don’t allow a fluky return, and that should be enough to be 4-2 come Sunday night.
7. No Pre-Bye Slip Up
Sunday’s contest offers little barometer for what the Colts might do in January (if they get there).
It’s still a very important game though in maintaining a necessary record through the first half of the season.
We know the brutal nature of the schedule come November and December. That’s why it is vital the Colts take care of business against the Bengals and move to 4-2.
Bowen’s Prediction: Colts 27-17. I know the Colts faced a lot of questions and scrutiny this week, but I’d be really surprised to see them lay a major egg against the Bengals. The return of Anthony Castonzo going up against a poor run defense (with a banged up defensive line) should allow for the Colts to control the game by finally producing a strong rushing afternoon. Behind that, and enough rattling of Joe Burrow, the Colts bounce back with a multi-score win and head to their bye week at 4-2.