Sure, Tuesday is an "off" day for NFL players, but I have a feeling if you visited the Dove Valley comples today there would be quite a few guys there getting extra treatment or taking a look at some extra film. At least there had better be! The Broncos control the future that lie in front of them; Best the Bengals on Christmas Eve and the 49'ers on New Year's Eve and head to the playoffs as the #5 seed. Lose to the Bengals, and most likely spend January at their favorite golf course or vacation spot.
Time to turn our attention to Ocho Cinco, carson Palmer, T.J. Whosyourmama and the rest of the cons that play for the Cincinnati Bengals. Living in Cleveland I see alot of the Bengals, and I have watched a team play brilliantly at times, and not so much at others. Some of that I wouold attribute to a quarterback still trying to return from a horrible knee injury, if more mentally than physically.
Some of it has to be the off-field distractions, indiscretions that have seen the arrest of 8 different players. The team has also been the victom of some terrible injuries to key players, including David Pollack who may never play again.
Whatever the reason, the Bengals have been up and down and like the Broncos find themselves heading into Sunday's matchup facing a virtual must win. What did I take away from last night's game in Indy?
First, the Bengals are a team without a real identity. I know that the temptation of playing a run defense like the Colts had to be strong, but the Bengals haven't run the ball well all year, and coupled with the fact they were without Levi Jones and Willie Anderson left ealry in the game it might have been a better idea to go back to what the team does well and that's spread the ball and use all those weapons at your disposal. 3/8 for 33 yards in the first half just won;t get it done.
What does that mean for this Sunday? The Bengals do throw the ball well, all over the field, and the Broncos have been less than stellar against teams that do just that. I expect Cincy to come into the game, run a lot of no huddle, and throw the ball early and often, especially down the field where the Bengals hurt the Broncos on that Monday Night 2 years a go.
Defensively the Bengals are alot like the Broncos. They play in streaks hot and cold. At times they look unbeatable, at others like a seive. The Broncos are going to find it a tough go on the ground, but there will be plays to be made threw the air. Peyton Manning used a short passing attack to methodically move the Colts down the field. Not only was it effective, but it kept the Bengal defense on the field way too long. By third quarter you could tell the big guys up front were winded, and couldn't muster much of a rush.
I would love to see the Broncos go three wide, and utilize Tony Scheffler much in the same way the Colts did, to burn clock, keep the ball for long stretches, and let Carson Palmer and Co. rot on the sidelines.
One other key, and there are examples in several games to back me up. Get pressure on Palmer. He is still very weary of his knee, and who wouldn't be. That's not to say he isn;t hanging in there, or afraid to get hit, but his accuracy drops way down when he has guys around his feet and legs, and last night's 4 fumbles prove that he is thinking about other things than ball management when pressured. Now, unfortunitely for us Levi Jones will probably be back, and the Broncos don't have a pass rusher like Dwight Freeney. But if Ebenzar Ekuban and Elvis Dumervil can supply some of the pressure Freeney was able to create it might be enough.
One last tidbit. I can't wait to see the showdown between Champ Bailey and Chad Johnson. Johnson owned Bailey the last time the two met, no doubt about it. Champ remembers this and is having a career season. If Champ can come up big against 85 this Sunday, the Broncos probably win the game and Champ gets some retribution. Not becuase 85 is the only weapon the Bengals have, but when Johnson isn't getting the ball he becomes a bit of a distraction.
The onus this Sunday is going to be on the defense and the crowd. Indy's crowd did a nice job of not allowing the Bengals offense to get confortable. The Denver crowd needs to be in full throat and give the defense the lift it needs to get past the Bengals and into the playoffs.