Playoff implications abound as the Broncos head into Cincinnati for a Monday night battle.
Denver (-4) at Cincinnati (O/U 48) – Here’s where these two teams sit heading into tonight’s game in Cincinnati: The Denver Broncos are 11-3 and have won the AFC West. They trail the New England Patriots who are 12-3 in the race for the top seed in the AFC. The Pats own the tie-breaker with Denver because of their win over the Broncos earlier this season. They can clinch at worst the two-seed with a win or tie this evening.
For the Bengals, they are 9-4-1 and can get a playoff berth with a victory tonight or a tie. Regardless of what happens though this evening, next Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh will determine the champion of the AFC North. At this time that can mean two things; either a home game or a wild-card game on the road.
Both teams come in tonight with pretty good offenses. Denver ranks fifth overall and Cincinnati ranks 14th. The difference between the two units however is consistency. The Broncos have found a running game behind C.J. Anderson and that has taken some of the pressure off of Peyton Manning to do every, single thing for the team.
The Bengals’ offense has seen some success with both the running and passing game but the consistency has been lacking. One week they are a house of fire and the next they can’t seem to find their way to the line of scrimmage. It goes without saying that they’ll need to bring their ‘A’ game against the Broncos.
Defensively, the Broncos are among the best in the NFL and have sacked opposing quarterbacks 38 times so far in 2014. They are actually better against the run though limiting teams to just 3.4 yards per rush.
The Bengals have struggled to find consistency on defense just like they have on offense and now they are without tacking machine Vontaze Burfict for the season. The major problem for Cincy has been the lack of pass rush. They have just 18 sacks on the season which ranks them second to last behind Atlanta.
To be utterly honest here, Andy Dalton needs to play well. This offense cannot function at a high level unless he takes care of the ball and can distribute it to his playmakers. Most notably among those of course is A.J. Green who will need to be a part of Dalton’s “good game.”
Key injuries: DEN LB Brandon Marshall OUT/Foot, CIN TE Jermaine Gresham PROB/Toe
Trends: Denver is 5-2 straight up in their last seven games on the road at Cincinnati… The Bengals are 12-4-1 against the spread in their last 17 games at home… The total has gone UNDER in six of the Broncos last nine games when they play the Bengals… The total has gone OVER in four of the Bengals’ last five games at home.
The Pick: The last time the Bengals were at home they were blitzed by the Steelers 41-21 but have since gone on the road to gain two wins. Denver has won four in a row despite very “normal” stats by Manning. I think they ride Manning a bit more tonight as Cincy loads up to stop the run and the Denver defense gets after Dalton.
Take the Broncos to cover and the OVER.