What to watch for: Colts-Bengals

Here’s what to look for in tonight’s preseason finale between the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.

Actually, here’s what not to look for first.

Don’t expect players like quarterback Andrew Luck, receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive linemen Robert Mathis and Cory Redding to play much if they even play at all. Coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week that some players may not play. He didn’t mention any specific names, but it’s easy to assume he was talking about the team’s key players.

Thursday’s about players trying to make one last run at solidifying a spot on the 53-man roster. Rosters have to be set by 6 p.m. EST on Saturday.

Here’s a look at several players who can help their chances to make the roster by having a strong performance against the Bengals.

  1. LB Caesar Rayford: Barring a complete collapse, Rayford should be on the 53-man roster. But don’t expect him to take things lightly against the Bengals considering the road he’s taken to even reach this point. The 27-year-old rookie has spent his career playing in the Canadian and Arena Football Leagues. Rayford leads the Colts with a team-high five sacks in the preseason.

  2. WR Griff Whalen: Whalen, a former teammate of Luck’s at Stanford, started training camp strong before a groin injury set him back momentarily. But he bounced back strong by catching four passes for 57 yards against the Cleveland Browns last weekend. Another strong performance will likely solidify the fourth receiver spot for Whalen because the team’s current fourth receiver, LaVon Brazill is suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance policy.

  3. DE Fili Moala: A knee injury has hurt Moala in more ways than one. The 2009 second-round pick started eight games last season before suffering the season-ending knee injury. He missed most of training camp while recovering from knee surgery to put him further behind the competition for a roster spot. There’s no guarantee Maola will play against Cincinnati, which could hurt his chances even more.

  4. WR/KR David Reed: The Colts acquired Reed when they traded running back Delone Carter to Baltimore on Aug. 21. Reed’s best attribute is his kick return skills because he's only caught five passes in his first three seasons. He led the league in kick-return average in 2010. Expect Reed to get an opportunity to return kicks against the Bengals.