While head coaches Chuck Pagano and Marvin Lewis may act as though winning is the most important thing Thursday night, there is no question that they are both more concerned with escaping the game without any major injuries.
With that in mind, stars such as Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are unlikely to see more than a series on the field, if they play at all. This game will be more about players battling for the final roster spots, as the reserves will play the majority of the contest.
While it may seem like an unimportant game on the surface, it could make or break the NFL careers of many players. Because of that, the level of competition should be quite high.
When: Thursday, Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Watch: MyINDY-TV (Indianapolis), Local 12/WKRC-TV (Cincinnati)
Betting Line (via Bovada): Bengals (-3)
Colts Injuries (via ESPN.com)
Out: S John Boyett (knees), WR Nathan Palmer (knee), LB Lawrence Sidbury (shoulder)
Questionable: TE Dwayne Allen (foot), OT Anthony Castonzo (knee)
Bengals Injuries (via ESPN.com)
Out: FB Chris Pressley (knee), WR Andrew Hawkins (ankle)
Questionable: DE Carlos Dunlap (concussion), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), OT Andre Smith (knee)
Probable: WR A.J. Green (knee), TE Tyler Eifert (wrist)
Top Storyline: Bengals' Starting RB Battle
Plenty of positional battles have yet to be settled heading into this game, but the most intriguing among them concerns the Bengals' starting running back spot. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was serviceable for Cincinnati in that role last year, as he rushed for 1,094 yards and six touchdowns, but Giovani Bernard was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft in hopes of adding some explosion to the running game.
Bernard has seemingly provided that in spurts throughout the preseason. He has 104 rushing yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Bernard also has six catches in three games, so he is an asset in the passing game. According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, the coaches are extremely happy with what they've seen out of him thus far.
Green-Ellis has been used sparingly during the preseason with only eight carries, but he hasn't shown much based on the opportunities he has been given. "The Law Firm" is averaging a measly 2.4 yards per carry after averaging just 3.9 yards during the 2012 season. Green-Ellis will likely be the preferred short-yardage back no matter what, but one more solid performance could land Bernard the starting job.
It's difficult to gauge how this game might play out due to the fact that backups are going to decide it, but leaning toward Cincinnati is probably the safe bet due to the fact that the positional battles are generally more intense.
That will be especially true at quarterback. Luck and Matt Hasselbeck aren't likely to play much since their roles are defined, so third-stringer Chandler Harnish should see plenty of action for the Colts.
Cincinnati, on the other hand, has Josh Johnson and John Skelton scratching and clawing for the backup signal-caller job, so they'll both display a sense of urgency. Bernard also figures to be a fairly significant part of the offense. This would be a pretty evenly matched game in the regular season considering both teams have playoff aspirations once again, but the scales are tipped in the Bengals' favor for Thursday night's game.
The Colts probably won't be too upset over a loss to close the preseason, but it will be the Bengals who enter the regular season with momentum by virtue of a victory.
Score: Bengals 24, Colts 17
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