Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
Both starting quarterbacks have been lost to injury, but the stakes are still high in Monday night’s clash between the visiting Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos. Despite losing starter Andy Dalton to a fractured right thumb two weeks ago, the Bengals can wrap up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the postseason with a victory.
Cincinnati, which holds a one-game edge over Denver and is one game behind New England for the best record in the AFC, can also wrap up the AFC North with a win. “It will be fun, it’s a great opportunity,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “Both teams have earned it, and we’ve got to have at it.” Brock Osweiler will make his sixth consecutive start in place of Peyton Manning for Denver, which blew a 17-point halftime lead in a 34-27 defeat at Pittsburgh last weekend. The Broncos still have a chance at the No. 2 seed but also had their lead cut to one game over Kansas City in the AFC West.
ABOUT THE BENGALS (11-3): A.J. McCarron threw for two touchdowns and two interceptions in relief of Dalton in a loss to Pittsburgh, but was solid in a 24-14 win at San Francisco with 192 yards on 15-of-21 despite the absence of star tight end Tyler Eifert and limited nature of top wideout A.J. Green. With Eifert set to miss a second straight game due to a concussion and Cincinnati’s ground game struggling the past two weeks, McCarron will have his hands full with the league’s top-ranked defense. The Bengals are no slouches on the other side of the ball, allowing a league-low 17.4 points per game.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (10-4): Osweiler threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the first half alone against Pittsburgh, but for the third straight week he was unable to put any points on the scoreboard in the second half as Denver lost its second in a row. The running game has not been much of a factor all season, but Emmanuel Sanders came alive with 10 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown and fellow wideout Demaryius Thomas had a pair of scoring receptions. The Broncos were torched by Pittsburgh’s passing game, but they are tied for the league lead with 47 sacks and feature the No. 1 run defense.
1. Broncos LB Von Miller has six sacks in last six games.
2. Bengals RB Jeremy Hill rushed for 147 yards and a TD in a 37-28 win over Denver last season.
3. Thomas had seven catches for 155 yards in last season’s matchup.
LINE: Broncos -3.5
PREDICTION: Broncos 27, Bengals 13