8:30 PM ET, December 18, 2006
Cincinnati (8-5) at Indianapolis (10-3) Monday 8:30 pm EST
INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer engaged in quite a shootout less than 13 months ago. The rematch takes place on Monday night when the Indianapolis Colts host the Cincinnati Bengals.
The first-place Colts have lost three of their last four games after a 9-0 start while the Bengals have won four in a row to move into a tie for the lead with Jacksonville in the AFC wild-card race.
Indianapolis can clinch a playoff berth with a win or a loss by Denver, which plays at Arizona. The Colts can also seal their fourth straight AFC South title with a win and a loss by Jacksonville, which plays at Tennessee.
A two-time NFL MVP, Manning has passed for an AFC-high 3,628 yards and 22 touchdowns with nine interceptions for a quarterback rating of 95.9.
Palmer leads the conference with a passer rating of 98.7, completing 65 percent of his passes for 3,399 yards and 24 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
Manning got the best of Palmer in the Colts' 45-37 win at Cincinnati in November 2005.
Manning threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns while Palmer threw for 335 yards and two scores with an interception.
"I remember it was a lot of fun," Palmer said. "It was a shootout and that's what we expected."
The game featured 943 yards - 492 by the Bengals and 451 by the Colts.
Manning was nearly flawless on Indianapolis' first five possessions which all resulted in touchdowns, completing 16-of-20 passes for 272 yards and three scores as the Colts built a 35-17 lead.
The Bengals scored 10 points in the last 1:29 of the first half and opened the second half with a touchdown to pull within 35-34.
Chad Johnson caught eight passes for 189 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown for Cincinnati.
Reggie Wayne had five receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown for the Colts.
But the talk in Indianapolis is not about the explosive offense. Instead, the focus is on a run defense which is the worst in the league and hit rock bottom with 375 rushing yards allowed in last week's 44-17 loss at Jacksonville.
The 375 yards is tied for the third most in the NFL since the Super Bowl era began in 1966.
"It's fixable," Colts coach Tony Dungy said of his team's run defense.
It may not. The Colts yielded 251 rushing yards in the first half alone against the Jaguars.
"We know what the problem is and now the country knows what our problem is," said Colts defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, who was acquired from Tampa Bay to help shore up the run defense.
The previous week, Indianapolis yielded 219 yards on the ground in a 20-17 loss at Tennessee.
On Monday, the Colts will not be able to stack the box because of Cincinnati's dangerous passing game. So it will be up to the front seven to try and contain Rudi Johnson, who is fifth in the AFC with 1,054 rushing yards.
Last week, Rudi Johnson ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries in the Bengals' 27-10 win over Oakland.
While Indianapolis' defense is struggling, the Bengals' defense is improving under coach Marvin Lewis. Cincinnati has allowed a total of 17 points in its last three games. The Bengals recorded four sacks, including two by end Robert Geathers, in their win at Oakland.
The Colts will play the rest of the season without third receiver Brandon Stokley, who tore his Achilles in the loss at Jacksonville.
Plenty on the line for both teams
The Bengals have won four in a row heading into this crucial Monday night contest with the Colts, who have lost two straight after starting the season 10-1. Indianapolis is perfect at home this year and needs this victory to compete for home-field advantage through the playoffs. This game is a potential playoff rematch and features maybe the two top offenses in the league and two phenomenal quarterbacks.
Due to much better tackling and discipline, the Bengals' defense has allowed just 17 points in the last 12 quarters. The Colts are coming off a 44-17 divisional loss in Jacksonville, where their run defense was flat-out embarrassed, allowing 375 yards on the ground. Cincinnati handled the Raiders without a lot of problems at home despite turning the ball over four times. This should be an outstanding, high-flying game in the national spotlight.
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|Avg Points Allowed||20.3||22.2|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||CIN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||CIN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Indianapolis leads 3-0|
|Nov 20, 2005||CIN 37, IND 45|
|Oct 6, 2002||CIN 21, @IND 28|