Bengals: Home field big advantage for key game against Colts

By Jay Morrison
DAYTON DAILY NEWS  • 
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DAVID KOHL | ASSOCIATED PRESS
The weather — and the Bengals — should be frightful in Cincinnati today. The Bengals are 5-0 at home this season.

CINCINNATI — The Indianapolis Colts are the team with the lucky charm on their helmets and the Andrew Luck arm running their offense, but the Cincinnati Bengals are the fortunate ones today. 

That’s because their key AFC showdown is being played at Paul Brown Stadium, where the weather is expected to be an issue — especially for the dome-dwelling Colts — and where the Bengals are 5-0 this season.

The Bengals haven’t started better than 3-2 at home in 25 years, since beginning 5-0 and finishing 10-0 with a pair of home playoff wins in the 1988 Super Bowl season.

“You generate confidence that your place is going to create an adverse situation for a team, and you really start to be confident in yourselves,” Bengals offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth said. “You feel like, hey, it’s going to be tough for them to come in here and play because it’s going to be loud. We have to take advantage of it.”

If you tack on the win against Baltimore in the 2012 season finale, the home win streak stands at six as the Bengals head into a stretch in which three of their final four games will be played in Cincinnati.

“Obviously it’s easier to play at home,” said Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who owns a 94.0 passer rating at Paul Brown Stadium this season, compared with 80.0 on the road. “The thing with playing at home, you know all the surroundings, you know the timing of everything, and it just comes down to coming out and playing well. We’ve done that so far, and we’ve just got to keep it up.”

The Bengals are one of six teams who have yet to lose at home, and another victory today would greatly increase not only their playoff chances, but the likelihood that the first postseason game they play will be at home..

The Bengals and Colts are tied for the No. 3 playoff seed in the AFC, so today’s winner will take a one-game lead and have the all-important tiebreaker edge with three games remaining. The Bengals already own the tiebreaker edge on the New England Patriots, who sit one game ahead of them for the No. 2 seed.

“It’s a big weekend for us, playing the Colts,” said Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis, under whom the Bengals are 49-35-1 at home. “They’re leading their division, so we’ve got to play great football. They’re doing a nice job on offense. They obviously throw the football effectively.”

That, however, could be a struggle today with snow and freezing rain in the forecast, along with an expected game-time temperature of 33 degrees.

With the Colts being members of the AFC South Division and playing their home games indoors, few of the players have much experience playing in wintry elements. Especially Luck, who played collegiately at Stanford.

A strong running game is one way to offset bad weather, but Indianapolis is averaging just 109.4 yards per game, which ranks 20th in the league. The Bengals defense ranks eighth in stopping the run (101.1). So a lot will be riding on the right arm of Luck, who will try to do what Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have not been able to do — win at Paul Brown Stadium in 2013.

“Our crowd has been great,” Lewis said. “You enjoy a home-field advantage in the National Football League, and that’s a good thing. … It’s going to be real football weather in Cincinnati (today), so we have to be ready to take advantage of it, and get after it.”

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