What to watch for: Colts at Bengals in final preseason tuneup

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Worth watching when the Indianapolis Colts meet the Cincinnati Bengals tonight in Paul Brown Stadium.

  • Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
  • Telecast: WXIN FOX59
  • Streaming Broadcast: FOX59.com, CBS4Indy.com

Faux Super Bowl: Chuck Pagano seemed to eliminate any uncertainty regarding the backup quarterback situation last week. Remember?

“Scott Tolzien is our backup quarterback and Stephen is the number three right now,” he said.

Stephen Morris had to be listening – how could he not? – but that won’t impact his approach tonight in Cincy. He figures to handle the majority of the playing time.

“Whatever time I have or whatever opportunity I have, I have to make the most of it,” Morris said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first game or the last game. Whatever you’re putting on tape, you want it to be good. You want to make sure you are able to perform the offense, move the ball, make smart decisions.”

Morris smiled when it was mentioned many consider the fourth preseason game a meaningless event.

“Maybe starters can dismiss this game,” he said, “but not guys who are trying to fight for active rosters. This is like a Super Bowl, quote unquote, for those guys.

“I’ve heard that term being used before and I understand it. But there’s no such thing as a meaningless game. Not for preseason game number one, preseason game number four, regular season two, three. Anytime you have an opportunity to put yourself on film, you have to make sure it’s good film.”

Although Morris, who was on the active roster for the final two games a year ago, appears headed to the practice squad, he’s had a solid preseason: 19-of-31 (61.3 percent), 314 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, a 127.6 passer rating. He’s averaging 10.13 yards per attempt and 16.5 yards per completion. He’s also the team’s leading rusher (46 yards on five scrambles).

Tolzien? He’s 30-of-50 for 302 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and an 82.3 passer rating.

Oh, and that Luck guy? In two appearances – not a chance Andrew Luck plays tonight – he’s completed 80.8 percent of his passes for 205 yards with no TDs or interceptions and a 99.5 rating.

Last chance: We’ve always believed Ryan Grigson and Pagano could name their 53-player roster before the final preseason game and rest easy. They’ve had the entire offseason and three preseason games to figure out who can do what. This year, though, the rash of short-term injuries figures to complicate matters when finals are made Saturday.

But there have been instances when someone does something in the closing weeks that tips the scales. That was the case with Drew Haddad in 2001. By all appearances, there are a couple of slots still up for grabs. At receiver, will that fifth and final spot go to Chester Rogers or Tevaun Smith? At running back, will the No. 3 guy be Jordan Todman or Stevan Ridley? Is there a young pass rusher among Curt Maggitt, Ron Thompson, Earl Okine and Trevor Bates? Is there a spot for Josh McNary?

Pagano insisted there’s still time for someone to “flash” and either earn a spot with the Colts, or another team.

“It’s happened before so I’m not going to say lightning can’t strike again,” he said.

Final cuts must be into the league office by 4 p.m. Saturday. Beginning Sunday at 1 p.m., teams can begin signing players to the 10-man practice squad.

Cincy, again: It’s the Silver Anniversary Game. It’s the 25th time the Colts and Bengals have met in the preseason, and the 14th time they’ll do so in the final preseason game. You’ll excuse us if we don’t celebrate. For those keeping score at home, the Bengals hold a 16-8 series lead.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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