Let's not dwell on the fact that this was supposed to be Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Anthony Richardson and the Indianapolis Colts. Both teams are still alive in the playoff picture despite losing their Week 1 quarterbacks, and judging by that Monday Night Football performance, Jake Browning as Bengals Week 14 starter will do just fine.
Browning doesn't have a $275 million contract, but he did just carve up the Jacksonville Jaguars and keep Cincy alive in the AFC playoff picture. It's probably not realistic to expect 350 yards and a passing completion better than 85% each week. But the Bengals made sure to surround Burrow with plenty of playmakers, and now, Browning gets to utilize this talented group.
No team in the NFL is hotter than the Gardner Minshew-led Colts though. Winners of four straight, Indy was just thanking the Bengals for defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars in primetime last week. Jacksonville's loss moved the Colts to within one game of the lead in the AFC South. As it stands now, Indy would be playoff bound anyway as the last wildcard in the AFC.
Thin margins in the playoff race make this a game with big implications down the road. It's time to get into some Bengals Week 14 predictions to see how things might shake out.
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No 100-yard receiver for Cincy
In a Week 13 win, Browning's new BFF Ja'Marr Chase led the way with a whopping 149 receiving yards for the Bengals. Will Chase, or perhaps another one of the talented pass catchers, hit triple-digits against the Colts? It will be a tough task to do so.
Gus Bradley's defense has been very strong against the pass in recent weeks. In three of Indy's last four games, the opposing team failed to reach 200 yards passing. Sure, this stretch included games against Bryce Young, Mac Jones/Bailey Zappe, and Baker Mayfield. But it's impressive nonetheless.
The Colts' propensity to play zone coverage might be better suited to limiting the big plays Browning can hit. Also worth noting is that five Bengals had 35+ yards receiving, so Browning is not forcing the ball to any one player. He'll spread the ball around, which might cap the ceiling of any one player in this matchup.
Browning finds trouble
It's easy to fly under the radar considering all the flashy numbers Browning put up in his second career start, but he also put up two impressively low numbers: Browning threw zero interceptions, and he took just two sacks against a Jags defense that boasts Josh Allen, he of 13.5 sacks. (Allen had one-and-a-half of the two sacks recorded.)
The Bengals will be lucky to keep such low figures again this Sunday. Indy's defense trails only the Baltimore Ravens in sacks this season, and they are tied for fifth in interceptions. It's a defensive unit that likes to gamble, and the stats bear that out. They create havoc, but they give up a lot of yards too.
Browning might get his positive numbers, but he'll likely find more trouble in Week 14 than he did against #DUUUVAL.
Joe Mixon has posted two games with 100+ yards from scrimmage in his last three attempts. As stated above, the Colts are a defense that surrenders plenty of yards to opposing offenses.
See where this is going? Mixon is still a bell cow back for the Bengals in a league moving away from those types. (Mixon has 180 carries this season. The rest of the Bengals roster combined has 71.)
Browning looked Mixon's way seven times last week as well, allowing Mixon to show off his versatility. Another 100-yard day is definitely on the table for #28.
Colts extend streak, harness Bengals
This one feels like a toss-up. Both teams fighting for their playoff lives, doing so impressively without QB1. This should be a fun matchup. But who will win it?
Despite all the good feelings around the Bengals these days, it's easy to forget they entered Week 13 on a three-game losing streak. And they needed overtime (and an injury to Trevor Lawrence before OT started) to dispatch the Jags.
It feels like a let down is coming. The Colts aren't as good as their four-game win streak implies, but they have a pretty good shot at extending it to five this Sunday.