INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – One defense is the league’s worst against the run, the other is the league’s worst against the pass.

Put stars like Chad Johnson and Marvin Harrison, Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning on the same field as those defenses and a shootout would be all but expected.

The Cincinnati Bengals discount the hype.

“You know they’re going to have 11 guys over there and we are going to have to block them and protect and run and pass and do the things we do,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “Our object is to get a win. I don’t know about entertainment.”

While this week’s game features two of the league’s most dangerous offenses, Cincinnati and Indianapolis are more concerned with getting desperately needed wins to make a playoff push.

The Colts (10-3) have lost three of four and again can clinch their fourth straight AFC South title with a win. Cincinnati (8-5) has won four straight, but remains locked in a tight wild-card hunt with three teams one game back and three more teams two games behind.

So both will likely accentuate what they do best: score.

“Our approach is pretty much always the same – to score enough points to win,” said Manning, a two-time MVP winner. “It could be 10 or it could be 30.”

A year ago against the Bengals, it took 45.

The teams traded scores in the first half as they combined for 62 points – the second-highest total in league history – before Indy eventually won 45-37.

“Last year, you saw some very good offensive teams going at each other, two very good going against each other and you had the sense you were watching something special,” coach Tony Dungy said.

Now it looks like more of the same.

Indy and Cincinnati rank among the top five in passing offense. Palmer and Manning both have passer ratings over 95, while Johnson, Harrison, Reggie Wayne and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are all among the AFC’s top seven in receptions. Plus, Rudi Johnson has already topped 1,000 yards, while the Colts duo of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes is closing in on 1,500 yards between them.

But if Monday night is to be a replay, the Colts must start putting things back together quickly. They’ve allowed nearly 600 yards rushing in the last two weeks, and Manning has thrown six interceptions and only four touchdowns in the last four games. Worse, the once-vaunted offense has topped 17 points just once in the last five weeks. Four weeks ago, the Bengals had a defense that couldn’t protect leads, couldn’t force turnovers or get off the field. Since then, the Bengals have yielded only 33 points, produced their first shutout since 1989 and started getting turnovers like they did in 2005. Meanwhile, Chad Johnson and Palmer are back in sync and the offense has been rolling.

“Offensively, we’re playing very well,” Chad Johnson said. “We’re peaking at the right time. … Hopefully, we can come down to Indy and get it done.”

They could have some additional help.

Indy, which is already without two key run-stuffers in Corey Simon and Montae Reagor, and safety Mike Doss, could again play without Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders (knee). Dungy may wait until game day to decide whether safeties Marlin Jackson (shoulder) and Antoine Bethea (shoulder) will play, and there have been whispers that there could be changes at linebacker, too.

The Bengals will again be without center Rich Braham and may be without tackle Levi Jones (knee), too.

But Cincinnati couldn’t care less about the injuries or the offensive fireworks.

“It (a win) would mean a lot,” Chad Johnson said. “It would help us greatly to be 3-0 in December, and, hopefully, we can keep it going.”

AP-ES-12-14-06 2114EST


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