Cincinnati Bengals (11 – 3)
Denver Broncos (10 – 4)
The last couple of weeks for the Denver Broncos have very much been a tale of two halves. This dichotomy actually reaches back three weeks, though it has been more radically pronounced in the last two against the Oakland Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers. In both contests, the Broncos stormed out to early leads and looked as though they might be able to close the games out early only to see those leads evaporate.
Unfortunately, unless the team figures out their first half/second half splits, the theme of their 2015 season might sound a very similar note.
The Broncos need to win Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals very badly. If they win, they will be in an excellent position to clinch the Number 2 seed in the AFC playoff hunt.
If they lose, they have a very real chance of being the first team in NFL history to start a season 10 – 2 and miss the playoffs entirely.
KEY MATCH UP
Though they won’t take the field at the same time, the match up here is between back up quarterbacks A. J. McCarron on Brock Osweiler.
McCarron comes in following a win against the San Francisco 49ers during which he did enough to manage the game and the Bengals played smart. Osweiler comes in following a perplexing two-game slide during which he looked like a terrific NFL quarterback for 4 of the 8 quarters of those games.
Whichever QB manages his team better, takes greater advantages of the few opportunities these two very good defenses are going to present and handles the playoff-like atmosphere surrounding this game with more composure will lead his team to the win.
I am betting on Brock Osweiler in this one.
All NFL teams deal with injury issues this late in the season and the Bengal and Broncos come into this game very beaten up indeed. I thought the most under-reported story of last week’s loss to the Steelers was the fact that Denver was missing both of its starting safeties and I believe that fact contributed greatly to the comeback the Steelers were able to mount.
That T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart seem on track to play Monday night doesn’t bode well for A.J. McCarron in his second start. I expect their presence to make a significant difference in the outcome of the game this week.
This is almost a playoff game for both teams. It’s a home game for the Broncos and they let down the Mile High faithful in spectacular fashion during the last home outing. Brock Osweiler is making his sixth start. The Broncos should come out hot after their puzzling performance last weekend and stay hot throughout the game.
I think Denver will win this game and begin to recapture a bit of their mid-season momentum heading into next week’s final game of the year.
Look for the defense to play much better. Look for Osweiler to be consistent for the entire game. Look for Emmanuel Sanders to continue his brilliance from last week.
Look for Denver to win the game.
Cincinnati Bengals 20
Denver Broncos 27