The Denver Broncos head into Cincinnati with all the momentum behind them.
One warning. The last time the Broncos played an 11am ET/6pm GMT kick-off was when they travelled to the New York Jets, and we all know what happened there. Of course, the Broncos were on a two-game slide, coming off a short week after leaving everything on the field against the Kansas City Chiefs. Other than the fact it’s an early kick off in the Eastern Time Zone, this situation is completely different.
The Broncos are coming off back-to-back victories over the LA Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers, both on six-game win streaks. The Broncos have also been +7 in the turnover margin in those games. That’s a recipe for success.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals have lost their last three games to the New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns. After sitting relatively pretty at 5-3, they have slumped to 5-6, trending in the wrong direction at a crucial stage of the season.
The Bengals’ defence has given up an average of 36.7 points against in their three-game skid. In fact, they’re giving up 31.5 PPG all season.
The biggest hole the Broncos will have to take advantage of is the Bengals’ rush defence that ranks 31st in the league in yards against, giving up an average of 147.5 yards per game. Meanwhile, the Broncos have a top 10 rushing attack, and rank second in yards per attempt at 5.2. And we all know who that’s down to. The Colorado Kid.
Case Keenum has played three clean games in a row, and as long as the Broncos continue to run the ball, he is doing enough to help his team win. It is Lindsay who is the best player on this Broncos offense.
Against the Steelers, who hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, Lindsay rushed for 110 yards on 14 carries. Lindsay needs to see more touches. Maybe 14-16 is what we’ll get from him on the ground, but he needs to be getting closer to 20 all-purpose touches if the Broncos are to be successful.
Bill Musgrave said this week on Lindsay that “We want more of the good stuff and Phillip is at the top of that list.” He is such a dynamic, fast runner. Give him the ball in space and let him wreak havoc.
Whilst the Bengals defence has struggled horrendously all year, they still possess a six-time Pro Bowl and two-time First Time All-Pro player on their interior defensive line.
Atkins will present a different challenge to the Broncos ‘ragtag’ offensive line that has played out of its skin the past two weeks, giving up just two sacks in total.
Atkins has seven sacks this season, although he has recorded just one in his last six games, with just three of his 15 quarterback hits coming in that same stretch. That said, he’ll be licking his lips going against this offensive line, and the Bengals will certainly be trying to stop the Broncos running the ball, and putting the game in Keenum’s hands.
Chris Harris Jr.
AJ Green is healthy and ready to go. This presents another challenge for the Broncos secondary after facing Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster last week. Brown had just three receptions for 18 yards when covered by Harris.
With Tramaine Brock out, Isaac Yiadom will be the Broncos third cornerback, and there will be more onus on Harris and Bradley Roby to really step up.
That said, the spotlight will largely be on Harris, coming off back-to-back games with interceptions, and needing just one more for a season-high tally of four. What should help the Broncos, is that Andy Dalton is not quarterbacking Cincinatti. Even with Driskel starting, Harris still has to prevent the Bengals quarterback putting the ball in Green’s hands, because we know how dynamic he can be.
There will be no Andy Dalton under centre for the Bengals on Sunday. He is done for the year after injuring his thumb in Sunday’s defeat to the Browns.
In Dalton’s place comes 2016 sixth-round pick out of Lousiana Tech Jeff Driskel. Ahead of the 2016 draft Driskel was described as having “An experienced feel for the game… he checks the size, athleticism, and arm strength boxes emphatically, but needs to get more accurate on vertical routes” (Draftwire).
Before transferring to Louisiana Tech, Driskel struggled in the SEC with Florida, completing just 58.3% of his passes. Against the Browns he went 17/29 for 155 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
However, he can also use his legs to beat you, but the Broncos must keep him inside the pocket, stop the run, and force Driskel to try and win the game with his arm.
This has an easy Broncos win written all over it. Which means it won’t be. As long as the Broncos escape with the win, they can move on content with where they’re at. However, this game represents a real chance to make the NFL sit up and take notice. It’s a chance for Case Keenum to continue his steady improvements, and a chance for the Broncos defence to pin their ears back. Get back to 6-6 and anything is possible. The Broncos simply have to win. I think they’ll take it 27-13.
Stuart Brunt – Broncos 24-20 Bengals
Dave Haselden – Broncos 28-10 Bengals
Troy Renck – Broncos 27-21 Bengals
Andy Lindahl – Broncos win
Ian St. Clair – Broncos 34-13 Bengals
Don’t forget to check out this week’s episode of the Denver Broncos UK podcast with Andy Lindahl and Troy Renck here: https://soundcloud.com/user-454557594/denver-broncos-uk-podcast-episode-32
You can read Ian. St Clair’s weekly article here: http://www.denverbroncosuk.com/musings-from-the-mile-high-report-week-13/