Colts flex AFC muscles by shutting out Bengals

It was one of the ugliest offensive performances in franchise history, and the Bengals are now winless in their last three games. All of a sudden, the Super Bowl contenders are looking seriously thin and the Colts, well, they're looking more and more like a deep playoff team every week. Here's what we think after a 27-0 blowout in Indy.

  1. It took the Colts more than a half to convert a third down, so Pep Hamilton and Co. aren't exactly free from criticism, but the Bengals put up an absolutely horrendous offensive performance on Sunday. Their 27 yards at the half were the fewest by an NFL team at the half since Week 3 of last season. It took them until the 30-second mark in the second quarter to register a first down. Hue Jackson's insistence on the intermediate passing game worked last week against Carolina, but without a dramatic shift, his players were sitting ducks for a barrage of big hits from the Indy defense. The Bengals did not cross midfield until the 11:14 mark of the fourth quarter. That is not a typo. They finished with 135 yards of total offense.
  1. The Bengals should force Vontaze Burfict to sit out for a few weeks, not only to give him time to truly rehabilitate his head and neck injuries, but to allow him to develop as a tackler. Burfict has already missed time this year with a concussion, went through concussion sideline protocol last week against the Panthers and missed almost the entire game Sunday with a neck injury. Burfict's form on a tackle of Andrew Luck was shoddy. His head was almost completely down, and he buried his neck into a charging 240-pound ball carrier. When Burfict is out of the lineup, the Bengals' defense is so obviously weak against a power running game. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, who combined for 129 yards and a touchdown, were free to exploit the defense on Sunday.
  1. On a deeper level, where do the Bengals go from here? A blowout loss to the Patriots in Week 5 and a gut-wrenching tie to a suspect Panthers team in Week 6. This week? A heartless effort against the Colts. On several occasions Sunday, we saw Andy Dalton spike the ball, throw up his hands or roll his eyes, which is not a good sign from a franchise quarterback in development. With a locker room that is potentially volatile enough to turn if the season hits the skids, Marvin Lewis has some serious coaching to do over the next few days. The window in the AFC North won't linger for long, and with a game against the Ravens looming, he might need to come up with something in a hurry.
  1. Speaking of Bradshaw, he may be one of the few high-profile players to have left the Giants and have succeeded with another franchise. Along with Chris Ivory and Marshawn Lynch, Bradshaw is one of the most violent runners in the NFL, but his ability as a blocking back and safety-valve wide receiver really set him apart. Bradshaw finished with 88 total yards and twotouchdowns, and really helped gut the Colts out of an early rut in the first half. If anything, the coaching staff has to be thrilled that Richardson is watching the vet up close and personal.
  1. The Colts have now won five games in a row, and officially put the league on notice. Their defense, especially with Bjoern Werner developing into a fine pass rusher, is physical. Their running game is setting Luck up with more time than ever and T.Y. Hilton continues to be one of the best all-around receivers in the NFL. This week, he tallied 107 yards and averaged more than 15 yards per reception. They shut out an opponent for the first time since 2008. With road matchups against the Steelers and Giants coming down the pike, the Colts will build some serious anticipation for a rematch with New England in Indianapolis that could solidify the Colts as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 7 game, and breaks down Peyton Manning's record-breaking night. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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