Thursday, August 29, 2013

Indianapolis Colts vs Cincinnati Bengals: CIN -3.5 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

The Bengals opened up as -3 favorites at -120. It's slowly creeped towards -3.5 all week and some books have moved it there now with the regular -110.  As mentioned all preseason, the 3 hasn't been nearly as important as it is in the regular season. Through three weeks of NFLX, only one game has finished by a 3 point margin. 51% of bets are currently on the home team. 

Coaching

Last week I tried to buck the trend that had Marvin Lewis going 2-8 in dress rehearsals, but they ultimately came up short as Alex Tanney closed out the game with a last minute drive. In contrast, he has a 7-3 record in Week 4 NFLX games.

There isn't a lot of history to rely on for Chuck Pagano as he's only coaching his second preseason of his career.

Quarterbacks

The driving force behind my Week 4 picks is the quarterback rotations.  There isn't any reliable way to
handicap third stringers and bubble players at the tail end of the exhibition season, but we can count on lots of missed assignments and mistakes. This favors quarterbacks who can move the chains with their legs and have experience running an NFL offense.

Enter Josh Johnson and John Skelton. Johnson is mobile and athletic and he's familiar with Gruden's system. So far this preseason he's 20/36 for 208 yards, 2 touchdowns to 1 interception, and has 105 rushing yards on 10 carries. Skelton is 9/14 for 131 yards and 1 touchdown pass.

Meanwhile, things are pretty bleak for the Colts. Their offense looks good when Andrew Luck is under center, but Matt Hasselbeck and Chandler Harnish have combined for six points of offense in the second halves this preseason.

Hasselbeck is a veteran who knows how to move the ball, but he's also not interested in taking any hits at his age either. Against the Giants he simply chucked and ducked to avoid a hit, which resulted in an awful interception.

Hasselbeck is 15/27 for 172, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.  Harnish is 16/38 for 121 yards and an interception.

Bottom Line

I've been a big supporter of the Bengals since the start of camp, not only for the preseason but also the regular season. I like their coaching staff and the quality depth they've developed throughout the roster.

The Colts defense has looked good for a couple of weeks in a row, so I don't think it will be a cake-walk by any means, but the Colts offense without Luck doesn't scare anyone. TY Hilton is a bright spot though.

Even with the chalk, this game is at home for Cincy and they have capable QB depth to pull out this win and cover.

NFL Pick: CIN -3.5.