Matchup to watch: Bengals secondary. As we touched upon in Elevated Stats, the Bengals secondary is only allowing a passer rating of 76.2 - eight touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a measly 6.9 yards per attempt. Teams haven't been able to throw on these guys.
If the Broncos are to succeed passing the ball they will need to involve their tight ends and running backs as they attack mismatches at the linebacker position. Hopefully Julius Thomas will have returned to full health after missing significant time to injury.
Matchup to watch: Broncos secondary. The Bengals have a tight end and two running backs in their top five receivers, while the Broncos' biggest weakness defensively is in the passing game against those positions. TE Jermaine Gresham, RB Giovani Bernard and RB Jeremy Hill combine for nine receptions per game.
The Broncos usually cover tight ends and running backs with safety TJ Ward or who ever is playing MLB (which has been in cycle due to injury), and this matchup has been a struggle throughout the season for the Broncos. The Chargers provided a good example of this with RB Branden Oliver, RB Donald Brown, and TE Antonio Gates combining for 14 receptions, 136 yards and a touchdown.
Matchup to watch: Sure-tackling Cincy. The Bengals are one the surest tackling teams in the NFL, allowing only 3.12 yards after the catch, 6th best in the league. This is not good for the Broncos, who rank 27th in the league in broken tackles in the receiving game; Demaryius Thomas leads Broncos receivers with seven broken tackles.
Matchup to watch: Struggles at the goal line. The Broncos running backs and offensive line struggle with runs getting shut down near the line of scrimmage but they may get a boon thanks to a Bengals defense which only stuffs running backs at, or before, the line of scrimmage on 7.5% of run plays, 26th worst in the league.
Under the radar factor: The Broncos rank 8th for the most drives starti ng in opponents territory due largely to a strong punt return unit (I was surprised by this). Expect an inefficient Bengals offense to make that number rise.
Under the radar factor: The Broncos pass rush was considered one of the best with the addition of veteran Demarcus Ware, but compared to the past two season the Broncos are actually getting pressure and hitting the quarterback less often (though they are getting sacks at a slightly higher rate). This could be attributed to Denver's style of offense resulting in lower-scoring affairs, and therefore less opportunities to get to a quarterback who "has to" throw late in the game to attempt a comeback.
Big thanks to Topher Doll for his help compiling these juicy nuggets!