On Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts host the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis is making its third-straight trip to the playoffs, hoping to advance to the Divisional round for the second time in as many years. Cincinnati is back in the postseason for the fourth consecutive campaign, still looking for its first playoff win since beating the Houston Oilers in 1990.
Indianapolis has a high-powered attack led by Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton. Luck leads a passing attack ranked third in the NFL, with Hilton totaling a career- and team-high 1,345 receiving yards despite missing a game. Even with a rushing attack led by the struggling Trent Richardson, Indianapolis still ranks sixth in points per game at 28.6.
Cincinnati hopes to erase some miserable playoff history this weekend. Under head coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals are 0-5 in the playoffs, including defeats in each of the past three seasons. This year, Cincinnati has turned to a ground-and-pound style behind backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. The rushing attack has averaged 134.2 yards per game, checking in sixth.
This is the second time the Colts and Bengals are meeting in the postseason. Back in 1970, Cincinnati visited Baltimore at Memorial Stadium and was shutout 17-0. The Colts went on to win Super Bowl V over the Dallas Cowboys.
The Bengals have a top weapon in running back in Jeremy Hill, a second-round pick out of LSU this year. Hill ran for 1,124 yards this season, leading all rookies. He is just the third rookie in NFL history to rush for 140+ yards in at least three games, joining Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Curtis Martin.
Indianapolis has made the playoffs in all three seasons under coach Chuck Pagano. This is the second consecutive year the Colts are hosting a postseason game, having won the AFC South for the ninth time since 2003. A large part of Indianapolis' success this year are tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, who each set a club record for amassing at least eight touchdowns.
The Colts have a few underrated defenders on a unit that has struggled badly to stop top offenses. Rookie Jonathan Newsome notched 6.5 sacks, leading all AFC first-year players. D'Qwell Jackson paced the conference as well, recording 140 tackles in his first season in Indianapolis. In the secondary, safety Mike Adams and corner Vontae Davis combined for nine interceptions.
Who to Watch
Andrew Luck: Luck finished third in the NFL with 4,761 passing yards. Without much of an offensive line and a non-existent rushing attack, Luck managed to lead Indianapolis with his golden arm. The No. 1-overall pick out of Stanford in 2012, Luck has proven to be worth the investment and then some, already tossing 86 regular-season touchdowns.
Luck's only drawback is his propensity to throw interceptions. Last year, Luck threw three interceptions in the Wild Card round against the Kansas City Chiefs, but managed to rally from a 38-10 deficit to earn a 45-44 victory. When the Colts beat the Bengals, 27-0, earlier this season, Luck threw for 344 yards and a pair of scores without a pick.
Andy Dalton: Yes, another quarterback.The fact is, Dalton has been terrible in the playoffs, and if he does not play better, the Bengals have no shot. Dalton has now made the playoffs in all four of his NFL seasons, but is still looking for his first postseason victory.
The major problem for Dalton is interceptions. Dalton has seven picks in three postseason contests, including a pair of three-interception afternoons. Dalton has struggled all year avoiding mistakes, throwing 19 touchdowns and 17 picks. Dalton's yardage total of 3,398 is tied for the lowest of his career, tying the mark he had in 2011 as a rookie out of TCU.
Lucas Oil Stadium opened in 2008, giving the Colts a replacement for the RCA Dome. Lucas Oil seats 62,421 and cost $720 million to build. The stadium has hosted a litany of sports outside of football, most notably the NCAA Final Four in men's college basketball. Lucas Oil has also been home to the Super Bowl, given the 46th edition when the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots. The Big Ten Championship has been played there every year since 2011.
How to Watch
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
When: 1 p.m.
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Online Streaming: Verizon NFL Mobile
Here at SB Nation, five out of seven experts are riding with the underdog to topple Indianapolis. The OddsShark computer believes in the Colts, however. Of the eight analysts at CBS Sports, only Ryan Wilson and John Breech are buying stock in Indianapolis.
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