NFL: Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals Preview

Peyton ManningWith just two weeks left in the NFL season, playoff races are heating up and the seeding is starting to be settled. Such is the case with the match-up between the (11-3) Denver Broncos and the (9-4-1) Cincinnati Bengals as both teams have the postseason in mind (8.30pm EST, Monday on ESPN).

Despite a tough and highly competitive AFC North, the Bengals are close to clinching at least a wildcard spot. They can do so with a win here, making it the fourth time in as many years that the team has made it to the playoffs. For Denver, they’ve been in and now they are just competing with the (11-3) New England Patriots for the top seed in the AFC. A win on Monday, puts the Broncos one step closer to that coveted spot.

Peyton Manning Isn’t Invincible but does it Matter?

There’s a problem if you’re the Bengal defense and his name is Peyton Manning (pictured). But it is not in the traditional way defenses have come to fear the all-time great. Manning has passed for no more than 260 yards in each of his last four games and only has seven touchdowns and two interceptions in that span as well. For more QB’s, numbers like those are nothing to sneeze at but for Manning, that’s a slump.

Overall, Manning’s numbers really aren’t even close to the amazing stats he put up last year but it doesn’t seem to matter because even in Manning’s worst days, the Broncos just seem to win.

This is where the bad news for the Bengals comes into play. Not only are the Broncos 4-0 in these past handful of Manning games but Manning himself is also 8-0 against the Bengals. He has dominated Cincinnati his entire career but it doesn’t stop there. Denver, even without Manning, has won 13 of the last 15 in this head-to-head series.

So even though Manning himself has had a chink in his otherwise impenetrable armor the past four weeks, the Broncos themselves have not. This is largely in part to the running game led by CJ Anderson. Together, the Denver backs have rushed for an average of 164.8 yards in the past four games.

After battling an illness last week, Manning is expected to be 100% on Monday. This isn’t exactly promising news for the Bengals, who don’t want to let a late season loss to Denver keep them out of the postseason again.

Cincy can Run but is their Ground Game enough to Win?

From the beginning of the season, the Bengals have been a running team. It began with Giovani Bernard, the second year draft choice out of North Carolina. Bernard picked up right where he left off in his rookie year, scoring a touchdown and at least 60 yards rushing in three of his first five games. After the third week of the season however, Bernard suffered an injury.

Although Bernard’s injury projected to slow the rushing attack of the Bengals, it didn’t do anything close. In fact, it may have been a blessing in disguise as the injury allowed Cincinnati rookie Jeremy Hill to take on starting back duties. Since taking over from Bernard, Hill has carried most of the load. He has had three games in which he has carried the ball 20 times or more and in each of those, he has record over 145 yards.

Needless to say, the Bengals have no shortage of depth and talent at the runningback position. But as far as the offensive attack goes, this is about it.

Cincinnati ranks toward the back end of the league (23rd) in passing yards per game, something that may be hard to believe given the presence of all-pro wide receiver AJ Green. Green and company have failed to score 300 passing yards in eight of the last nine weeks, largely in part because of Andy Dalton and his low efficiency and QB rating. Dalton ranks as 16th of 20 eligible quarterbacks with at least 400 attempts this season. The TCU product has always been questioned for his arm and accuracy but with a running game as successful as it is now, this weakness is finally being exposed.

Against the Broncos, Dalton might have to throw it if the team hopes to win. Denver boasts a top two run defense, allowing just over 71 yards a game to opposing backs. These numbers have tightened down as of late as well. The passing defense on the other hand is suspect and if Dalton can manage to take advantage of this, Cincinnati might just have a shot at beating Denver.

Denver Broncos v Cincinnati Bengals Betting Picks

Denver boasts the same offense that took them to the Super Bowl this year but if it is possible, it might be even better now. Manning is backed by a great runningback who has carried the load in the past few weeks. With a Cincinnati defense that ranks in the low-end of the league in stopping the run, it seems hard to believe that Anderson and the Bronco rushing attack will slow down this week.

Manning is unbeaten against the Bengals and the Broncos themselves are dominating the rivalry. Even though Cincinnati is playing at home, it still seems unlikely they will walk away with anything other than one more in the loss column.

  • The spread seems small given Denver’s penchant for scoring so take the Broncos to get the win and to do so by more than the handicap on the spread. The best option looks to be to bet on Denver Broncos -3.5pts @ betting odds of +105 with 5Dimes Sportsbook. How long those seemingly generous odds last is anyone’s guess because Bovada offers significantly shorter odds of -115 for the exact same spread while BetOnline goes -3pts at odds of -120. That latter option might be attractive if you are desperate not to give up the extra half point.
  • Take the over 47.5 total points for the game @ -110 with BetOnline or 5Dimes (Bovada go over 48pts). If we have learned one thing this season it is that prime time games tend to turn into shootouts, no matter which two teams are playing.