By Rick Brown
It has been a tough season for both the Broncos (3-6) and the Bengals (3-6). Each team had high expectations for the season, but poor performances have led to more losses than wins for both Denver and Cincinnati. There are a lot of similarities between these two teams. Both, for instance, are near the bottom of the league in offense: the Bengals are in last place in total yards per game, while Denver sits in the bottom 10. Conversely, both teams’ defensive units are fairing quite well, with Denver sitting at No. 3 and Cincinnati at No. 13 in total yards against.
After spending a second-round pick on running back Joe Mixon this year, Cincinnati had high hopes he would bring a boost to the running game. And while Mixon has scored two touchdowns and is averaging 2.9 yards per carry, the Bengals are still 32nd in the league in rushing yards per game. The lack of running game has given opposing teams the opportunity to focus on Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ wide receivers. The Bengals look like a team in disarray and seem to be on a path for another losing season to go along with last year’s 6-9-1 record. Cincinnati will have a tough time moving the ball against a rebounding Broncos defense.
The Bengals offense has not been playing well. Even with talented players like Dalton, A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard, the offense has not been able to put together a consistent ground game. The effects of a non-existent rushing attack has allowed opposing teams to zero in on stopping Green and Dalton’s deep ball. There was also a big loss on the offensive line when Andrew Whitworth left to play with the Los Angeles Rams (7-2).
The offense has not been able to overcome the loss of leadership and experience Whitworth provided while playing for Cincinnati, and a rash of injuries to key players has not made it any easier for the Bengals. Season-ending injuries to running back Jeremy Hill (ankle) and tight end Tyler Eifert (back) have left Dalton with just a couple of weapons, and Green is the only real threat left. This Cincinnati offense cannot move the ball or score points, and it is proving to be too much for the Bengals defense to carry.
Just like the Broncos defense, the Bengals defense is performing well and is 13th in the league for yards against. The Bengals secondary is fourth in the league in passing yards against and 25th in rushing yards against. The team is giving up 20 points a game, which is good enough for 12th in the league. While the Bengals are filled with talented players like Dre Kirkpatrick, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins, the defense is having to carry the team.
It is tough to win games when the Bengals offense is scoring 16 points a game. This lack of offense forces the defense to play overly aggressive and the results are not good enough to win games. The Bengals will need to focus on stopping the Broncos’ run game if the team hopes to have any chance of earning a victory on Sunday.
Players To Watch
The talented Bengals defensive line may be able to get after Broncos starting quarterback Brock Osweiler. Dunlap and Johnson should be able to rush through the turnstile that is the Broncos’ right tackle. It doesn’t matter who the Broncos line up in that position, as no one has been able to perform well in both the running game and passing game. Vontaze Burfict will be rushing the passer often and may be able to get after Osweiler.
The Broncos have a chance to start a new streak this week with its first win in six weeks. While these two teams may have the same record, there are too many holes and issues on the Bengals team for the Broncos to fall to Cincinnati. While we did see the Broncos play poorly against the lowly New York Giants (1-8), the Bengals just do not match up well against this Broncos team. Look for the Broncos to put forth a full-team effort and beat the Bengals in a close game, 27-24.