Cincinnati Bengals (1-3-1) at Indianapolis Colts (3-2)
Going into the season, I had the Colts as a top-5 team and even after their loss to a good Browns team in Cleveland last week, the Colts still rank 5th in the league in first down rate differential at +4.64%, but this team is clearly not the same without linebacker Darius Leonard. Not only is Leonard arguably the top off ball linebacker in the league and arguably the best defensive player on a defense that was ranked #1 in the league before Leonard’s absence, but he’s also so much better than all of the Colts’ other linebackers, as they have a very mediocre linebacking corps without him.
The Colts get an easier opponent this week, hosting the Bengals in Indianapolis, and they’re in a good spot as home favorites of more than a touchdown going into a bye, a spot in which teams are 62-26 ATS since 2002, but the Bengals have played a lot of close games over the past couple years, even if they haven’t done much winning. Last year, 8 of their 14 losses came by one score or less and this year, with a more talented roster, 2 of their 3 losses have come by one score or less. They rank 24th in first down rate differential at -2.38%, which isn’t great, but it suggests they can be competitive and they’ve played a tougher schedule than the Colts. I’m still taking the Colts because of the spot they’re in, but we’re not getting any line value with them and I can’t be confident in them with Leonard out.
Indianapolis Colts 23 Cincinnati Bengals 13
Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -7.5