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Old 09-26-2018, 04:43 AM   #1
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When Andrew Luck gazes over Cincinnati's defense Sunday Mitch Unrein Jersey , he'll see some of the league's top pass rushers.

Defensive tackle Geno Atkins often gets the interior push. Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson routinely bring the outside pressure.

So with Luck making his first start in more than 20 months, the Cincinnati Bengals hope to make life miserable as the Colts quarterback re-acclimates himself to regular-season life in the NFL.

"My biggest concern, they have a really good front seven," Luck said. "It's always a tough defense. Geno Atkins is a heck of a player, (Carlos) Dunlap on the edge, got guys that can cover. So it's always a challenge."

Circumstances could make this season opener even more challenging for Indy.

Longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury and was limited in practice earlier this week. Denzelle Good, who appeared to be the favorite at right tackle, hasn't played since hurting his left knee in the third preseason game.

Then there's rookie left guard Quenton Nelson, the No. 6 pick. He's likely to draw the assignment on Atkins, and there's no assurance second-year running back Marlon Mack will return from a hamstring injury that has kept him off the field since the preseason opener. If Mack can't play, rookies Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines may be asked to help protect Luck, one of the league's highest-paid players.

No Marquez Valdes-Scantling Jersey , it's not an ideal start for a quarterback who missed the 2017 season while recovering from surgery on his throwing shoulder.

But the Colts may not have a choice.

"We will do everything we can do to neutralize the pass rush 鈥?no matter what five guys are up front," new coach Frank Reich said. "And that will be No. 1 on the pass game agenda each week: How do you protect the passer?"

The Bengals have other concerns after losing eight straight in Indy.

They're expecting to face a crowd eager to welcome back Luck and capable of making enough noise to slow down the pass rushers.

"I think everybody there is going to be excited," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "We know the kind of player that he is. I guess if you're going to play Andrew Luck, you'd rather be playing him now than Week 12."

NEW STRIPES

The Bengals debut their redesigned offense under coordinator Bill Lazor after giving a few previews during the preseason. They made more of an effort to get big plays, something missing last season. Andy Dalton looked comfortable with the new playbook in his limited preseason time, completing 71 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, one interception 鈥?the receiver fell on his route 鈥?and a passer rating of 130.9.

"I feel real comfortable with the way I played," Dalton said.

DOUBLE DOSE

Last year, in Philadelphia, Reich took advantage of a plethora of solid tight ends.

Expect more of the same this season in Indy.

The Colts signed free agent Eric Ebron, Detroit's first-round pick in 2014, to help stretch the field as Pro Bowler Jack Doyle continues to exploit the middle. Indy also has former basketball player Eric Swoope and Ryan Hewitt, a former Bengal Brett Favre Jersey , on the roster. And all four could play Sunday.

NEW O-LINE

The offensive line was the biggest issue in Cincinnati's offense finishing last in the league in 2017.

There's only one returning starter 鈥?left guard Clint Boling 鈥?as the unit's been overhauled.

It'll be the first time that left tackle Cordy Glenn, rookie center Billy Price, right guard Alex Redmond and right tackle Bobby Hart play together in a regular-season game.

RECORD WATCH

Adam Vinatieri's 23rd NFL season could be the most remarkable of his career.

The four-time Super Bowl champion needs seven field goals to break Morten Andersen's record (565), five field goals from the 40-49-yard range to take over the top spot from Gary Anderson and 58 points to break Andersen's mark of 2,544.

How has he done it? By keeping things in perspective.

"You definitely want to start off on the right note," he said. "We know how important it is, we know how much our owner wants to win this first game. We know how important it is to win at home in front of our home crowd, all the above."

NO BURFICT

For the fourth straight season, the Bengals will be without linebacker Vontaze Burfict at the outset.

He missed the first six games of 2015 while recovering from a knee injury and has been suspended for the start of each of the past three.

This time, Burfict will miss the first four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancers.

Even though they could have, and maybe should have, seen it coming, Raiders players seemed to be double-eyepatch blindsided by the trade that sent defensive end Khalil Mack to Chicago. But their quarterback says the players have processed the shock and awfulness Darius Leonard Jersey , essentially because they have no other choice.

“I think, obviously, we had the day off that day and so that made it harder because I’m just sitting there thinking about it all day,” Carr told reporters on Monday, via ESPN.com. “Whereas now, I’ve got a job to do. Once we showed up and got to work, Coach [Gruden] addressed it with the team, said what he said, invited anyone who needed to talk to him, open door. He understood that a lot of us were close with [Mack].”

So what did Gruden tell Carr?

“It’s one of those situations that sucks — we lost our friend, we lost our brother, but we have games to win, we’ve got a job to do Pat McAfee Jersey ,” Carr said.聽“And I think that’s the mark of Mr. [Reggie] McKenzie and Coach Gruden bringing in the right kind of people . . . handle it like men. You don’t have to like it or agree with it, but we’re paid to win games.”

It’s one thing to bring in the right people. It’s another thing to keep the right people. Whatever Gruden’s cockeyed explanation and justification for not paying Mack, the market is what it is, the cap is what it is, and the Raiders are getting $750 million in free money to build a stadium in Las Vegas. If the Raiders wanted to keep Mack, the Raiders could have kept Mack.

Consider Chicago’s perspective. They paid Mack and gave up a pair of first-round picks (with shuffling of lower-round choices), for a guy who never played for them. So either the Bears are nuts for giving up the money and the picks, or the Raiders are nuts for not giving up the money.

Of course, given that they each have a single playoff appearance over the last decade, there’s a chance the right answer is both.

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