“No matter how bad you think you have it, there’s always somebody who’s got it way, way worse.”
That 1966 quote from author Vince Flynn predates the Cincinnati Bengals by two years, but it certainly still applies today. And the Indianapolis Colts are the Bengals’ “someone.”
Let the commiserating begin.
Even though the two teams have similarly disappointing records — Indianapolis is 2-5, Cincinnati 2-4 — the Bengals opened as 9.5-point favorites, which is the second-largest spread on the board this week (Philadelphia 10.5 over winless San Francisco).
That shows how dire things are for the Colts, whose only two wins are against the winless Cleveland Browns and winless 49ers, in overtime.
With star quarterback Andrew Luck still sidelined from offseason shoulder surgery, Indianapolis ranks 27th in scoring (17.0) and 28th in total yards (291.3).
And those struggles have carried over to a defense that is 32nd in points allowed (31.7) and 31st in yards allowed (425.4), which could be just what the anemic Bengals offense needs to build some momentum and confidence.
Making matters worse is that the Colts lost first-round pick Malik Hooker, whose three interceptions had him one shy of the NFL lead, to a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s 27-0 loss to Jacksonville.
But Luck’s injury has been the most damaging, especially given the front office’s reluctance to find a contingency plan until after the Colts had played their final preseason game (a 7-6 “thriller” against the Bengals).
The team acquired Jacoby Brissett in a trade with New England on Sept. 2, and the offense has been a work in progress since. Brissett has done a good job protecting the ball, throwing three interceptions. But he is 120 of 201 for 1,409 yards and seven touchdowns in his six starts (Scott Tolzien started the opener, a 46-9 loss to the Rams.
The Colts have allowed the most sacks in the league with 29, with 10 coming in Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars.
Tight end Jack Doyle is Brissett’s top target with 30 catches, but wide receiver T.Y. Hilton leads the team in receiving yards with 512, which have come on only 27 catches. Hilton ranks third in the league in average yards per catch at 19.0.
Thirteen-year veteran Frank Gore leads the team in rushing with 322 yards, but they have come at a plodding pace of 3.4 per carry.
In three of the Colts’ last four losses, they have led at halftime. For the season, Indianapolis has been outscored 123-41, including 85-22 in the fourth quarter. Rookie Marlon Mack has been more explosive, averaging 4.9 yards per rush, but he’s only carried 32 times. Coach Chuck Pagano has vowed to get Mack more involved, beginning against the Bengals.
Colts center Ryan Kelly is from Wester Chester (Lakota West High School). … Colts defensive end Margus Hunt entered the NFL as a second-round draft choice of the Bengals in 2013, and was with Cincinnati through ’16. … Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert (Injured Reserve) is from Fort Wayne, Ind. (Bishop Dwenger High School) and played at the University of Notre Dame. … Bengals cornerback KeiVarae Russell also played at Notre Dame. … Colts tackle Tyreek Burwell (practice squad), guard Deyshawn Bond (Injured Reserve) and running back George Winn (Injured Reserve) played at the University of Cincinnati. … Five Colts players played at Ohio State University: defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, safety Malik Hooker (Injured Reserve), offensive lineman Jack Mewhort (Injured Reserve), linebacker John Simon and linebacker Josh Perry (practice squad). … Bengals defensive quality control/defensive line coach Marcus Lewis played at Indiana State University. … Bengals running backs coach Kyle Caskey coached at Indiana State University from 2006-08. … Colts linebacker Tarell Basham played at Ohio University. … Colts assistant head coach/offensive line coach Joe Philbin coached at Ohio University in 1994. … Colts linebackers coach Jim Herrmann was born in Cincinnati.
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AFC North Outlook
Baltimore (3-4) vs. Miami (4-2) Thursday night: The Ravens have lost four of five while averaging 17.2 points per game and desperately need a win to stay within reach of division-leading Pittsburgh.
Cleveland (0-7) vs. Minnesota (5-2) Sunday morning in London: Former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will try to lead the Browns to their first win against former Cincinnati defensive coordinator and Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
Pittsburgh (5-2) at Detroit (3-3) Sunday night: The Steelers are looking to start a season 3-1 in road games for the first time since 2010 as they return to the site of their Super Bowl XL victory.