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MNF Bengals at Colts Preview

December 18, 2006

NFL - Cincinnati Bengals (+3, 54) at Indianapolis Colts 8:30 PM EST

By Tony Adams

After starting the season with nine straight wins, the Colts (10-3) have hit the wall, losing three of their last four. Despite their crisis of confidence, Indianapolis still goes in as three point favorites against a Bengals outfit that has suddenly clicked.

Cincinnati (8-5) looked anything but like playoff contenders when they lost five of six games in a horrible mid-season slump, but they have turned it all around on the back of some staunch defense.

Coach Marvin Lewis' team has won four games in a row, and a victory tonight would give them their longest winning streak since 1988, the last time they reached the Super Bowl.

Good old fashioned defense has been the key to the turnaround since conceding 49 points at home to San Diego on November 12th. The Bengals have let in a mere 33 points in their past four games.

In addition to the defense, the continued solid play of quarterback Carson Palmer has been a key factor as well. Palmer's quarterback rating is currently first in the NFL, while his opposite, Peyton Manning looks to be struggling on the eve of the playoffs.

Manning failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this year in last week's 44-17 loss at Jacksonville. Manning has also only thrown five touchdowns in his last five games, pedestrian numbers for him.

If Manning can regain his "mojo", fans will be in for a great treat tonight. Palmer and Manning have two of the best arms in the NFL and have thrown 46 touchdown passes between them this year. Palmer has a slight edge over his rival (24 touchdowns to 22) but balancing that out, he's also thrown two more interceptions.

While the Bengals' defense has been top-notch as of late, the Colts have lost their edge in this vital area of the game.

Coach Tony Dungy called a crisis meeting last Monday after his team allowed 375 rushing yards to the Jaguars. That's the second most in the NFL since the 1970 merger, and sent alarm bells ringing through the camp.

Unless Dungy can plug the holes quickly, the Colts' dreams of Super Bowl glory can be shelved for another season.

No such problems for the Bengals, whose only dramas at the moment are coming off the field. Cornerback Deltha O'Neal was inactive in last week's 27-10 win versus Oakland after being picked up by police for drunk-driving. Remarkably, he's the eighth Bengals player arrested this year, probably an NFL record if they kept such statistics.

Summing Up: Last year's game was a classic with Manning getting the Colts a thrilling 45-37 win. But if the Bengals can continue to show their defensive clout of recent weeks, it will be Palmer's turn to shine.

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