The Cincinnati Bengals visit the Denver Broncos this week. The Bengals are 1-0 after defeating the Cleveland Browns last Sunday and the Broncos are 0-1 with their loss to the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night. The Bengals go in search of their first victory in Denver since 1975 and the Broncos will try to avoid their first 0-2 start in 12 years.
This is the 26th all-time meeting between the two AFC clubs in the regular season. Kickoff for the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday, Sept. 18, is set for 2:15 p.m. MDT. It will be broadcast locally on CBS. Check here to see which games are available on your region. Spero Dedes (play-by-play) and Steve Beuerlein (color commentary) will call the game.
The Weather conditions for the game are expected to be.
Of course that is the forecast at the time of this post. Check here for the current weather.
Injuries and external factors
With one week in the books, the Broncos are already beat up in key areas. The loss to Oakland was more than emotional. Wednesday's practice saw 7 casualties rehabbing from Monday Night. The Bengals didn't come away from Cleveland unscathed either. Their rookie starting Quarterback Andy Dalton was hit by Browns Defensive Tackle Phil Taylor on Cincinnati’s final offensive play in the 1st half, suffering an injury to his right wrist. Dalton's wrist kept him from taking snaps in practice on Wednesday. He was limited to handoffs and pitches. If Andy can't go, the Broncos will face Bruce Gradkowski, who has visited Denver as a member of the Raiders, but has never taken a snap against the Broncos. As of Thursday morning, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said Dalton will play Sunday.
Other than the injury to Dalton, the Bengals are relatively healthy going into Sunday’s game at Denver. With CB Kelly Jennings looking like he will be available to play, the team added a third Tight End by signing Donald Lee and waiving CB Rico Murray. With his experience and ability to both block and be a receiver, Lee gives the Bengals something they were lacking when Bo Scaife went down due to injury.
DE Robert Geathers did not practice for a 2nd straight day due to a shoulder injury. Geathers has not missed a game due to injury since 2008 and if he can’t go, Carlos Dunlap would move into the starting lineup.
OT Andrew Whitworth was listed as limited with a knee injury, but he will be in the starting lineup on Sunday.
The Bengals Offense ranks 12th in Points (27.0), 24th in Total Yards (294.0), 27th in Passing (155.0) and 9th in Rushing (133.0). Last week, Bruce Gradkowski came in for the 2nd half and delivered a 41-yard touchdown pass to the Bengals top draft pick Wide Receiver A.J. Green to beat the Browns 27-17. Andy Dalton went 10/15 for 81 yards and a TD and Gradkowski was 5/12 for 92 yards and a TD. Cedric Benson ran for 121 yards on 25 carries and added a TD on the ground. Tight End Jermaine Gresham is their leading receiver with 6 catches for 68 yards and a TD. WR Jerome Simpson collected 44 yards on 4 catches against Cleveland.
The Bengals did most of their running in the two back set. Fullbacks Brian Leonard and Chris Pressley lead block for Cedric Benson, who had 121 yards on 25 carries (a 4.8 avg.). They did do some running in the single back set, but the 113 set (RB, TE, WR) is their primary passing package.
The Offensive Line was missing LT Andrew Whitworth last week, but the team is saying he'll be back in action this week. He is the elder statesman on the line with 6 years experience. LG Nate Livings, C Kyle Cook and RT Andre Smith are young and rookie Clint Boling is the Right Guard. Livings had a nice pull block sealing the edge on the 39-yard touchdown run by Cedric Benson to seal the win over Cleveland last Sunday.
When they pass, Cincinnati has Jerome Simpson, rookie A.J. Green and Jordan Shipley respectively as their Wide Receivers. Jermaine Gresham is their talented Tight End and the team's leading receiver. The Bengals are high on Green and they will look to get him the ball often.
Defensively, the Bengals rank 6th in Total Yards (285.0), 12th in Pass Defense (202.0), 14th in Rushing Defense (83.0). They run a 4-3 front seven.
The Bengals front four had LDE Robert Geathers go down with a shoulder injury, but RDE Frostee Rucker will return. 2nd year man Carlos Dunlap will get more work in Geathers' place. Dunlap had 9.5 Sacks in 2010, has a good first step and brings pressure from the left side. The huge Domata Peko literally anchors the LDT spot, with Geno Atkins at RDT. Jonathan Fanene, who had 6 Tackles last week and Pat Sims are in the rotation at DT. RDE Michael Johnson (6'-7") had 3 passes batted and 1 Interception on Sunday.
At Linebacker, Rey Maualuga wears the Green Dot at MLB. Manny Lawson comes over from the Niners to man the SAM and former Raider Thomas Howard plays the WILL. Rookie Dontay Moch is out with a broken foot suffered in the first preseason game and is at least a week away from even practicing.
The Defensive backfield has Nate Clements, who replaced Jonathan Joseph when the latter bolted to Houston in Free Agency, and Leon Hall at the Corners. Reggie Nelson is the Free Safety and Chris Crocker is the Strong Safety. FS Gibril Wilson played in the Nickel package last week, but CB Kelly Jennings and Morgan Trent will alternate as the corners in nickel situations against Denver.
Mike Nugent is the Kicking specialist for Cincy. He has a good leg on kickoffs. He has a career mark of 79.3% and is better than average out to around the 49 yard mark. The Punter is Kevin Huber, who made 8 punts last week for a 47.8 average, put two inside the 20 with only one touchback and a long of 60 yards. The Long Snapper is 3rd year man Clark Harris.
Brandon Tate was the only returner for the Bengals last week, but they have four other options. Tate returned one punt 15 yards and 4 kickoffs an average of 23 yards against the Browns.
The coverage unit allowed Josh Cribbs a 30.3 average on 3 kickoffs, including a 51-yarder. They also allowed him a 9.7 average on 6 punt returns, although two of those punts were line drives. Holding one of the better return men to that kind of yardage and not yielding a touchdown is a victory in itself. I didn't notice any sloppiness or undisciplined play on the part of Cincy's Special Teams Unit watching the tape from last week, so I would say Mr. Cribbs earned those yards.
The Broncos own a 17-8 all-time record against the Bengals in the regular season, including an 11-2 mark at home.
The first game between these two teams was in Cincinnati in 1968. The Bengals prevailed 24-10.
The Broncos won the the last meeting 12-7 in 2009 at Paul Brown Stadium on a miracle catch of a tipped pass by Brandon Stokely. The last matchup in Denver was on Christmas Eve in 2006. The Broncos squeaked out a 24-23 win.
The line in Vegas has the Broncos favored by 3.5 points.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Since 1996, the Broncos own the NFL’s best record in the first month (August/September) of the regular season, posting a 39-17 (.696) mark in those 56 games played during the past 16 years. But don't discount the Bengals. They will pound the ball with Cedric Benson and try to create mismatches with Jermaine Gresham. On Defense, they will stuff the middle, stack the box and send timely blitzes at Orton to force the Broncos quarterback to beat them.
Cleveland was able to push Cincy's Defense around last week. It was only a quick snap while the Brown's weren't paying attention that allowed the Bengals to wrest the game away. Will Denver be able to get on track and do the same? We shall see. This is a game that Denver can win and it shouldn't take a miracle at the end.