NFL Monday Night Preview: Cincinnati vs. Denver

hi-res-d6f406ca39ffa96ea2b35953dee39d56_crop_northOn the last Monday night of the year, the Cincinnati Bengals will fly over to Denver for an NFL Monday Night Football match up with the Broncos in efforts to get themselves into a better position for the impending playoffs.

Cincinnati got their postseason passports stamped last week when they defeated the San Francisco 49ers while on the road, where their backup quarterback AJ McCarron made an impressive debut, they also got a stellar performance from their defense.

But Denver will not be one to back down, and they will enter Monday very hungry, even starving for a win after a two-game losing skid. They will have their elite weapons ready to battle on offense and even on their their defense.

This game will have huge playoff implications. Funny enough, this match up will feature two top 10 teams who are starting young backup quarterbacks, while hoping for the return of their veteran starters for the playoffs. For the Broncos, Brock Osweiler will start and replace future hall of famer, Peyton Manning. For the Bengals, it will be AJ McCarron starting for Andy Dalton, who was probably on track to finish off as MVP in an elite season performance before having to take time off with a thumb injury.

The game they should have won, and the one the Bengals wanted to win this season happened two weeks ago against the Steelers. They were dominated unfortunately, and they didn’t clinch a playoff spot and bye that week, for various reasons.

But, if they win tomorrow night they can still put the season back on track. They could clinch the division and the AFC’s #2 seed with a win in Denver. A win paired now with the Patriots’ losing tonight 20-26 to the NY Jets, will keep the Bengals’ distant hopes of getting the #1 seed alive, and that’s a big fantasy for Cincy fans because it means home field advantage throughout the playoffs. To do that, they would need to beat the Bronocs this week and the Ravens next week. The Patriots have already lost to the Jets this week, and they’d have to lose to the Dolphins next week to make this dream come true. It’s a far stretch, but it’s something Cincy fans will be getting excited about.

The Bengals won last week 24-14 in San Fran, but it wasn’t pretty. Their offensive line had some major issues and downfalls. Some key players like Russell Bodine (-5.2) and Andre Smith (-4.5) had some of the worst performances on the team. For the inexperienced McCarron, it resulted in four sacks and five QB hits. Though he wasn’t able to avoid the pressure, he had a very good game. left the game with a touchdown, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 115.6. They’ll need a similar or even better performance this week if they want to beat a Broncos team that will be fighting tooth and nail to keep control of their divisional race.

And that recent loss that Denver suffered last week will be a good reminder, a 34-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers as to how hard they’ll need to play.

Bronco Brock Osweiler started the game against the Steelers with guns ablazing. But Ronnie Hillman fumbled the ball early and allowed the Steelers to get an easy touchdown. But, Osweiler helped the team get things back on track by leading three touchdown drives before the end of the first half. They had a 21-10 lead at halftime. But then things fell apart, though, as they couldn’t find any consistency in the second half. Instead the QB threw a critical interception near the end of the fourth quarter which resulted into a go-ahead touchdown for the Steelers. Osweiler finished that game with an overall negative grade (-0.2), but he’s got quite a few players around him to help get the offense going when the stakes are high.

The Broncos with their two game losing streak, now against Cincinnati has so much on the line. The absence of Dalton may be enough to stall Cincy and keep them from getting a late season road win. What was obvious in their recent loss to Oakland is that they need a defense able that is able to get after the quarterback, and this has been a setback for Denver. This is what the Bengals are capable of. If Osweiler can stay on his feet, Denver could walk away with a nice defensive, and hard fought win. If not, then the Bengals can’t be counted out and McCarron might get another win under his belt.

Our Pick: Bengals over Broncos, 24–20