After closing out their 2017 campaign with a nice run down the stretch that included a huge, playoff-changing, road victory over Baltimore in their finale, Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals will enter the 2018 NFL regular season with some high hopes. The Bengals are looking to get back in the playoffs after failing to do so in each of the last two seasons, following their five-year playoff run from 2011 to 2015. Despite winning just four games last season, the Indianapolis Colts also have some renewed hopes heading into 2018 thanks to the return of franchise quarterback Andrew Luck who missed the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury. With both teams looking to get off to a positive start, let’s find out if Dalton and the visiting Bengals are the betting pick to get the road upset or whether Luck and company can hold down the fort at home.

Betting
🏈: Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts
⏰: Sun. Sep 9, 2018, 1:00 PM ET
🏟️: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
📺: CBS
🎰: Indianapolis Colts -2½ -120 | -145 | U 48½ -110

Cincinnati looked really good in the preseason as they went 3-1 with wins over Chicago, Dallas and Baltimore and their only loss, being a narrow 27-26 loss to, ironically, Indianapolis. However, this Week 1 matchup will be a lot different with both teams playing their starters. While the Bengals struggled to score last season and averaged just 18.1 points per game (26t), I fully believe the contributions of second-year running back Joe Mixon and speedy second-year wide receiver John Ross, are going to make them far more explosive offensively this coming season. Cincinnati was solid defensively last season and they should be at least as good on that side of the ball in 2018.

Betting

Indianapolis also went 3-1 in the preseason with Luck appearing – and looking pretty damned good – in their first three scrimmage contests. The Colts held three of their preseason opponents to 20 points or less while scoring 23 points or more twice. Indianapolis has a new head coach in former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich and now, a bunch of young and hungry players.

Betting

Betting

Cincinnati may be playing on the road in this contest, but the Bengals are my pick to cover the spread as field goal road dogs – by getting the outright win. While Andrew Luck is back and that will make the Colts a lot better on the offensive side of the ball, Indianapolis still has a way to go to get back to being respectable, especially on defense. While Cincinnati finished the 2017 campaign ranked a respectable 16th in points allowed last season (21.8 ppg), Indianapolis finished an uninspiring 30th by allowing 25.3 points per game.

 More importantly, I think Frank Reich is going to need some more time to fix all of his team’s ailments. While I believe it’s still possible that Andrew Luck can play at a superstar level, the fact of the matter is that he just doesn’t have enough talent around him to beat better opponents. Cincinnati has some weapons on offense and the Bengals have generally been very solid on defense under longtime head coach Marvin Lewis.

Betting

While the home team in this rivalry is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings, Cincinnati is a robust 6-2 ATS in their last eight games and a spotless 5-0 ATS in their last five games against their AFC conference rivals. Conversely, Indianapolis is an awful 1-9 ATS in their last 10 regular season openers. Keep it simple and go with the better-balanced Bengals for the big road win.

Predicted Score: Cincinnati 28 Indianapolis 23

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