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Bengals at Broncos game preview: 3 keys to the victory

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The Denver Broncos (10-4) look to take another step towards securing a first round bye in the playoffs this week against the Cincinnati Bengals (11-3). A win tonight is step 1 and a win next week will be step 2.

Cincinnati Bengals
Monday, December 28, 2015 - 2:05 PM MDT
Denver Broncos

AVG. YPA (RNK)

TEAM CATEGORY

AVG. YPA (RNK)

2nd Pass Off. 27th
24th Rush Off. 18th
5th Pass Def. 1st
21st Rush Def. 1st
11-3 Sports Authority Field at Mile High 10-4
1st AFC North Spread: Broncos by 3.5 1st AFC West

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Entering this game, the Denver Broncos are again well positioned to control their own destiny. They choked away a shot at homefield advantage and though that is still a possibility with the New England Patriots losing yesterday to the New York Jets, it's a long shot. Instead, the Broncos still own an inside track to a first round bye. All they have to do is beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football and close out the season with a win over the San Diego Chargers.

Both are doable, especially considering the Bengals are without Andy Dalton and Tyler Eifert coming into this game, while the Broncos finally have both starting safeties back in the lineup for the first time in weeks. The two game losing streak has shown that T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart are vital cogs in this defense and it sure seems like they intend to make a statement tonight in prime time after an embarrassing defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.

Earlier this week, we covered how the Broncos should be able to run the ball and how the Bengals offense won't be as potent through the air with AJ McCarron under center. Those two predictions, I feel, are fairly solid. These three keys to victory have more to do with things outside the chalk, but will have just as big of an impact on the game.

Coaching

Gary Kubiak can ill afford to continue failing as a head coach during games. He has done a superb job of getting the team ready to play over the last three weeks as they have been dominant in the first half of games, outscoring their opponents 56-16. However, he has completely failed to get his offensive and defensive units adjusted correctly for success in the second half. The Broncos, over the last three games, have been outscored a whooping 36-0 in the second half.

That has got to end tonight.

Perpetuate "The Curse"

There is this thing that Bengals fans call "The Curse". It derives from how the Bengals tend to play on prime time. It's a curse that spans many years, but even this year with a team that is 11-3. Two of their losses came on prime time. A 10-6 home defeat to the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football and another home defeat on Sunday Night Football to the Arizona Cardinals. The only other prime time game came on Thursday Night Football where they beat up on the lowly Cleveland Browns.

There's another curse that Bengals fans are less aware of and that is their losing streak when playing in Denver. They have not beaten the Broncos in Denver since 1975.

Crowd Noise

The rowdier the home crowd the more fired up the defense tends to play. I can't understate how important it is for Broncomania to be on full display tonight. Show AJ McCarron what a hostile crowd actually looks like and give him a glimpse of what he's going to see in the playoffs.

To me, this is the most important of these three keys to victory. As much as I think coaching is important, its still the players on the field that must win the game and I love having the "12th man" making things impossible for the opposing offense.

Especially when this game could come down to which defense plays the best game.