There are only five games left remaining in the 2018 regular season and everyone of them has significant playoff implications for teams still in the hunt. Both the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals are on the outside looking in sporting 5-6 records and are just one game shy of a wildcard berth. Sunday’s gridiron battle between both franchises is a must-win for both sides with the loser likely falling out of the postseason race all together.
Despite being in different divisions, Sunday’s matchup will be the seventh time the two have faced each other in the regular season in the past eight years. The Broncos have won four of those games while the Bengals have won two, with their most recent victory being a 20-17 win in the Mile High City last November. In the past the Broncos have registered some big wins in Cincinnati and all of Broncos Country is hopeful that will happen again tomorrow. Here is a deeper look at the Bengals and what the Broncos can do to come away with a much needed “W” to improve to 6-6 and keep the playoff momentum going.
A glance at the Bengals’ offense
The Cincinnati Bengals’ offense is quite ambiguous. They are twelfth in the National Football League in respect to points scored, but have a lowly ranking of twenty-fifth when it comes to yardage. Their passing offense is their strength averaging 240 yards per contest which is middle-of-the-road league-wide, but are fourth-worst averaging only 94 yards a game on the ground. With Andy Dalton out due to injury, it will be up to third-year pro Jeff Driskel to navigate the Bengals’ offense on Sunday.
Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green are their two top receiving options. The two have combined for 108 catches and over 1,500 receiving yards and twelve touchdowns this season. Second-year wideout John Ross is their third option at the position, but only has 14 catches for 176 yards to date. That being said, his speed could pose problems for the Broncos’ defense. When he gets the ball in his hands he can go all the way, which is supported by the fact that five of his fourteen receptions have gone for touchdowns.
The running back due of Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard sport an impressive 4.6 yards per carry, but seem to be underutilized and only have 181 combined rushes. It doesn’t help matters that the team is almost always playing from behind but sixteen rush attempts per game isn’t necessarily a winning recipe for success. While the two might not get enough carries, they are certainly utilized in their passing attack and have 52 receptions between the two of them.
As far as other tidbits go, they are mediocre when it comes to third down conversion percentage. A big bright spot of the unit is the offensive line which has only given up 22 sacks on the season and has done a great job in pass protection, but left tackle Cordy Glenn is likely out for Sunday’s game which should provide the Broncos’ edge rushers a bigger opportunity to get after the aforementioned and athletic Driskel.
AJ McCarron managed to get the #Bengals into the playoffs when he took over for an injured Andy Dalton in 2015. Can Jeff Driskel do the same this season? @JayMorrisonATH has more in why the team has a lot of confidence in the backup QB. https://t.co/Qx7eKjFBag— The Athletic (@TheAthleticCIN) November 27, 2018
A glance at the Bengals’ defense
If you are wondering why Cincinnati fans are tearing their hair out this season it is because of their defense. Without question, the bane of the Bengals’ this season has undoubtedly been their defensive unit which ranks dead last in almost every major category. Giving up over 30 points and nearly 450 yards per contest isn’t easy to overcome which is the primary reason why the team is 5-6. It’s a stark difference compared to the past five years or so where the team has routinely been ranked in the top ten defensively.
Their rushing defense is in complete disarray and their ability to combat the pass is just as horrendous. I am very optimistic that Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman are going to have huge games on the ground. Moreiver, I believe that Case Keenum will be able to hit Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton for some big time plays. The Bengals have given up a lethal amount of big plays all year long and I expect the same trend to continue on Sunday.
That being said, defensive linemen Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins have combined for 14 sacks on the season and will be a tough test for the Broncos’ offensive line. If they can keep them at bay, I think the Broncos will be able to do some great things on offense and notch a big-time win that will keep Denver’s playoff aspirations alive.
While Domata Peko was the anchor of the #Bengals defense, it ranked in the NFL’s top 10 four times, won three AFC North titles and made it to the playoffs six times.— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) November 28, 2018
On Sunday, Peko returns as part of the visiting team. #DENvsCIN #SeizeTheDEY
: https://t.co/gCCIe0aKpm pic.twitter.com/bt6tI7zSI8
Keys to the game
As mentioned above, I believe the rookie running back duo of Lindsay and Freeman are in store for big games. I would love to see Denver commit to the run early and execute well, which should open up things for Keenum in the play-action passing game. Additionally, I want the Broncos’ pass rushers to dial up the heat and have a better performance than they did against the Steelers. If the Broncos’ defense can fluster Driskel and keep their trend of takeaways going that will help them out tremendously.
After two wins in a row, I am a lot more optimistic about the team than I have been at any point this season. Given the Broncos’ ability to force turnovers on defense and the Bengals’ inability to stop opposing offenses, I believe Denver will notch their third win in arrow on Sunday. I predicted a big-time win last week and I believe they will accomplish an integral road win tomorrow afternoon. Another week, another win for the Broncos. Let the playoff hype and dreams continue.
Broncos 30, Bengals 17.