NFL

Andrew Luck gives Colts an edge over Bengals

Much-different Colts beat the Bengals earlier in the season, 27-0

The Indianapolis Colts might have liked an earlier start time for Sunday's wild-card game against Cincinnati.

Earlier, as in October.

That's when the Colts were rolling, amassing at least 400 yards in eight of their first nine games. Indianapolis has cooled in the last two months, though, with injuries and inefficiencies conspiring to derail what once was the NFL's No. 1 offense.

This is not the same confident Colts team that throttled Cincinnati, 27-0, in Week 7; nor is it the same Bengals team, one that now showcases the one-two punch of running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.

"Seems like it was 10 years ago since we played that game," Colts Coach Chuck Pagano said. "A good day for the Colts. But that was a long time ago."

Still waiting

Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton has never won a playoff game, nor has Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis, who is 0-5 in the postseason. In fact, the club hasn't won a playoff game since the 1990 season.

During a recent news conference, Lewis interrupted a reporter who asked about the postseason futility.

"I'm tired of answering the dumb question, all right?" Lewis said, stopping himself ... "Excuse me. Not a dumb question. I'm tired of answering the very important question you have."

Good hands people

The Colts are getting No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton back from a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 16, but the Bengals could be without Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green, who didn't practice while recovering from a concussion. Green is also dealing with a deep bruise on his biceps.

Green joined Randy Moss as the only receivers to rack up at least 1,000 yards receiving in each of their first four NFL seasons.

Protection issues

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has taken a ton of hits this season, and the Indianapolis offensive line seems to be in a constant state of reshuffling. Now, more musical blockers.

Right guard Hugh Thornton was ruled out of the game after Friday's practice. He sat out four of the final five regular-season games because of injuries, and played only 18 snaps in the finale. Thornton will join right tackle Gosder Cherilus on the sideline Sunday. Cherilus was put on injured reserve.

ESPN's Jon Gruden said Luck is "running on fumes a little bit."

"He's wearing down," Gruden said. "I worry about Luck. I really do. They have not run the ball very well. He's taken some real hits. … If they can keep him upright, his will to compete, his playing strength and his knowledge of the game gives him a chance to win every single time out, but they've got to get him some better looks, I think, in the pocket."

By the numbers

How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):

CIN | IND

Points scored: 22.8 (15) | 28.6 (6)

Points given up: 21.5 (12) | 23.1 (19)

Pass offense: 213.8 (21) | 305.9 (1)

Rush offense: 134.2 (6) | 100.8 (22)

Pass defense: 243.0 (20) | 229.3 (12)

Rush defense: 116.3 (20) | 113.4 (18)

Sacks: 20 (32) | 41 (9)

Penalty yards: 54.8 (16) | 54.1 (15)

Turnovers: +0 (16) | -5 (22)

Farmer's pick

The Bengals are a different team without Green at full strength. The Colts will be facing a better Cincinnati defense than the one they picked apart in October, but Luck is better than Dalton, particularly in high-stakes games.

COLTS 27, BENGALS 20

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