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Colts-Bengals Preview

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Colts-Bengals Preview

By Associated Press

Fri Nov 18, 6:58 PM

GAME: Indianapolis Colts (9-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-2).

TIME: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. EST.

Chad Johnson won't guarantee a win this time. It's hard to do when no team has come close to beating the opponent in nearly two months.

Trying to prevent a team from going 10-0 for the second time in three years, Johnson and the Cincinnati Bengals look to prove they're in the same class with the Indianapolis Colts as the teams meet at Paul Brown Stadium.

Indianapolis is the first team to open 9-0 since Kansas City in 2003. That run by the Chiefs was halted by the Bengals, who entered the game with a 4-5 record but came away with a 24-19 win.

``There's a lot more at stake,'' Bengals left tackle Levi Jones said. ``There's a lot more riding on it than when we played Kansas City.''

Johnson guaranteed a Cincinnati win before that game, but is making no such promise this week.

``There's no need to guarantee a victory. No point,'' the AFC's leading receiver said. ``We're 7-2. We're one of the best teams in the NFL right now, so there's no need for me to go out on a limb like that. Two of the best teams are getting ready to match up.''

No team has opened 10-0 since the Denver Broncos in 1998, and the Colts haven't had a close game since a 13-6 win over Cleveland on Sept. 25. Their last six games have been decided by 14 points or more, a stretch during which Peyton Manning has thrown 15 of his 17 touchdown passes.

``This team has done a good job of playing to our best level of football and doing it week in and week out,'' Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said. ``That's quite hard, but we've continued to do that.''

After 14 straight seasons without a winning record, the Bengals are seeking their first 8-2 start since Boomer Esiason led them to the Super Bowl in 1988.

The Bengals have their work cut out for them against a Colts offense that has hit its stride.

Following an emotional 40-21 win at New England on Nov. 7, Indianapolis posted a 31-17 home victory over Houston last week.

Peyton Manning threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns, and Marvin Harrison caught seven passes for 108 yards. Manning's 30-yard touchdown pass to Harrison made them the first duo in NFL history to account for 10,000 yards. The tandem has 755 completions for 10,034 yards and 90 touchdowns - all NFL records.

``In this offense, it can be anyone's day,'' said Manning, the league's two-time MVP. ``But when you see it on film, we do spread it around. ... It can put the defense in a bind.''

Johnson and Carson Palmer are beginning to draw comparisons to the Manning-Harrison tandem, and this game gives them a great opportunity to show they're worthy of such praise. While Johnson tops the AFC with 808 receiving yards and has five touchdowns, Palmer is fifth in the NFL with 2,285 passing yards and has thrown a league-leading 18 TD passes.

Palmer will need plenty of protection against a Colts defensive line that features speedy ends Robert Mathis, leading the league with nine sacks, and Dwight Freeney, who led the NFL with 16 in 2004.

Manning, meanwhile, must beware of a Cincinnati defense which tops the league with 20 interceptions. With the Bengals being much better against the pass than the run, Dungy could often go to Edgerrin James in the early going so he can set the tone and open up the passing attack.

James tops the AFC with 1,027 rushing yards and has tied a team record by rushing for at least 100 in five straight games. He also ran for a touchdown for a fifth straight game last week against Houston.

The Bengals, meanwhile, are coming off a bye. Of their seven wins this season, only one came against a team that is currently above .500 (Chicago). Their two losses came to teams with winning records - Jacksonville and Pittsburgh.

``We've been playing good, but we're going to have to step up our intensity,'' Bengals guard Bobbie Williams said. ``The intensity level heightens. Everything is like it's in fast-forward. We're playing hard now, which is good, but we're going to have to step it up another notch and play like that consistently.''

STANDINGS: Colts - 1st place, AFC South. Bengals - 1st place (tied), AFC North.

COLTS LEADERS: Offense - Manning, 2,169 passing yards and 17 passing TDs; James, 1,027 rushing yards and 9 rushing TDs; Reggie Wayne, 54 receptions and 633 receiving yards; Harrison, 8 receiving TDs. Defense - Mathis, 9 sacks; Cato June, 5 INTs.

BENGALS LEADERS: Offense - Palmer, 2,285 passing yards and 18 passing TDs; Rudi Johnson, 778 rushing yards and 3 rushing TDs; Chad Johnson, 53 receptions, 808 receiving yards and 5 receiving TDs. Defense - Four with 2 sacks; Deltha O'Neal, 6 INTs.

COLTS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 133.6 yards per game (6th in NFL); Passing Offense - 238.4 ypg (8th); Total Offense - 372.0 ypg (2nd). Rushing Defense - 97.4 ypg (9th); Passing Defense - 173.9 ypg (8th); Total Defense - 271.3 ypg (4th).

BENGALS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 114.2 yards per game (15th); Passing Offense - 245.6 ypg (7th); Total Offense - 359.8 ypg (5th). Rushing Defense - 124.2 ypg (24th); Passing Defense - 187.1 ypg (10th); Total Defense - 311.3 ypg (15th).

LAST MEETING: Oct. 6, 2002; Colts, 28-21. At Indianapolis, Manning passed for two TDs and ran for another.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Colts - James is tied with Franco Harris for eighth place in league history with 47 100-yard games. ... Harrison needs two catches to reach 900 in his career in his 149th game, which would make him the fastest in NFL history to reach the mark. Jerry Rice did it in 168 games. ... Indianapolis is 22-7 on the road under Dungy. Bengals - Palmer has a 100-plus passer rating in 11 of his last 12 games, and is 7-3 at home in his career. ... CB O'Neal leads the NFL with six INTs and LB Odell Thurman leads all rookies with four. ... Cincinnati is third in the NFL with 14.9 points allowed per game, right behind the second-place Colts (12.8).

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Colts - 5-0 on the road; Bengals - 3-1 at home.

INJURIES: Colts - OUT: T Joaquin Gonzalez (ankle). DOUBTFUL: LB Rob Morris (head). QUESTIONABLE: DT Vincent Burns (knee/shoulder); LB Keith O'Neil (shoulder); S Bob Sanders (knee); DE Josh Thomas (chest). PROBABLE: CB Jason David (shoulder); S Mike Doss (shoulder); T Tarik Glenn (ankle); S Joseph Jefferson (toe); LB June (groin/knee); WR Brandon Stokley (groin); K Mike Vanderjagt (right calf/right groin); WR Wayne (foot). Bengals - PROBABLE: T Willie Anderson (knee); RB Rudi Johnson (knee); T Jones (knee); S Reggie Myles (illness); LB David Pollack (knee); G Eric Steinbach (abdomen).

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

Edited by TalonRider

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