A crucial game in mid-December didn’t use to be big news in these parts.
That’s what makes Sunday’s game even bigger for the Denver Broncos. At the very least, it’s as big as the 2016 game against the Tennessee Titans. One could argue Super Bowl 50.
Regardless, when the Broncos take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Mile High, it’s basically a playoff game for both teams.
The winner puts themselves in a good spot and keeps hope alive. A loss makes the task of making the playoffs incredibly difficult.
Heading into Sunday’s big game, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Broncos has slight favorites. After the games on Sunday, the line was -1 in Denver’s favor. Keep an eye on that number as the game gets closer. As for the total, the current number is 43.5. On the season, the under is 10-3 in Broncos games.
Cincinnati: Fourteenth in overall offense (358.8 yards per game), 19th in rushing (108.7), 11th in passing (250.1), seventh in scoring offense (27.2 points per game).
Denver: Nineteenth in overall offense (345.0 yards per game), 11th in rushing (123.1), 19th in passing (221.9), 23rd in scoring offense (19.8 points per game).
Cincinnati: Seventeenth in overall defense (349.8 yards per game), fourth in rushing defense (93.1), 29th in passing defense (256.8), tied for 17th in scoring defense (22.5 points per game).
Denver: Seventh in overall defense (324.8 yards per game), tenth in rushing defense (106.2), tenth in passing defense (218.6), second in scoring defense (17.5 points per game).
Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Sunday’s game.
Win the turnover battle
If the Broncos defense is able to steal a few possessions away from Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense, Denver should win this game. That also means Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos offense can’t turn the ball over. Win the turnover battle, win the game. — Ian St. Clair
Stick to the run game
The Broncos have found their offensive identity and that identity runs through the legs of Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. That one-two punch has been the key behind every victory in recent weeks and the lack of it in the game plan has also been the key behind every defeat. More than likely, we’ll know within the first 15 minutes on Sunday if Pat Shurmur has decided committing to the run is the key to winning games or if he’s decided to dial up some other strategy for ... defeat. I hope to see 30-plus runs again on Sunday against the Bengals. — Tim Lynch
Vertical passing attack
Sprinkle in more vertical passing concepts to take advantage of the stacked boxes you will see from the recent success with the running attack. The Broncos are truly rounding to form with their running game, but without challenging the deeper route tree, the Bengals are going to load up in the box and bring up safeties to blanket the shorter routes and stymie the Broncos. They need to take advantage of this by hitting deeper routes or this game could go sideways on them. — sadaraine
Contain the Bengals rushing attack
Joe Mixon has been a huge weapon for the Bengals all season. Containing him will make them one-dimensional on offense and give the defense a shot at some big plays that can result in turnovers. — Adam Malnati
Pressure Joe Burrow
The Broncos need to find ways to heat up Joe Burrow and harass receivers at the catch point. Jamar Chase is leading the league in dropped passes and a couple of them have been very costly, such as his pick against the Los Angeles Chargers. If left undeterred, Cincy has the kind of passing attack to slice up the Vic Fangio scheme because Burrow’s extremely good at throwing people open. — Joe Rowles