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Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals: Watch to watch for

Ken Pomponio Avatar
September 24, 2016

 

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Who: Denver Broncos (2-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)

What: NFL Week 3

When: 11 a.m. MDT, Sunday, Sept. 25

Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

TV: CBS

Announcers: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts

Radio: KOA (850 AM), The Fox (103.5 FM)

Odds: Bengals -3, O/U 41.5

Notable

  • The overall series advantage belongs to the Broncos, who have won 20 of the 29 meetings, including five of the last six. The latest was a 20-17 overtime victory in a Week 16 Monday night game last season in which Denver overcame a 14-0 first-half deficit.
  • This will be Trevor Siemian’s first road start for the Orange & Blue as he looks to continue the unexpected and semi-shocking success of first-year starting NFL QBs who enter Sunday a combined 8-1 following Jacoby Brissett’s win for the Patriots on Thursday night.
  •  Cincy’s Andy Dalton, meanwhile, is the franchise’s most successful starting QB (51-27-1, .652) in the regular season, but is 0-4 in the playoffs and 1-2 all-time against the Broncos (five touchdowns and two interceptions) He, of course, missed last season’s meeting with an injured thumb.
  • The Bengals have won six straight September home games since a 13-8 loss to the 49ers in 2011.
  • In meetings of the head coaches, Denver’s Gary Kubiak is 6-0 against Marvin Lewis-led Cincy teams, including two wild-card playoff wins in 2011 and 2012 while with the Texans.
  •  The Broncos are a point-spread underdog for the eighth time since the start of last season, but they’ve covered and won in six of those previous seven, losing only to the Steelers (34-27 as 6-point ’dogs) in Week 15 last December.

What to Watch For

  • Road test: The Broncos enter Sunday’s game riding a seven-game win streak but six of those contests, including the opening two this season, have been home games and the other was played before a pro-Orange & Blue crowd at the Super Bowl in Santa Clara. How will Siemian respond in his first road start? It’s also the Bengals’ home opener, meaning the team with the striped helmets will be quicker off the snap on both sides of the line of scrimmage. That will be a hindrance for the Broncos’ offensive line, Von Miller and the Denver pass rush which won’t have their usual advantage with the opposing offensive front also having to dealing with crowd noise. It could prove to be the equalizer with Cincy having allowed a league-most eight sacks and ranking third worst with an 8.7 sack percentage through two weeks.
  • Green vs. Talib: With tight end Tyler Eifert still out with an ankle injury and the team’s No. 2 and 3 wide receivers having departed in free agency, it’s truly the A.J. Green show when it comes to the Bengals’ downfield passing game. The 6-foot-4 Green went off in the opener against the Jets, catching 12 of his 13 targets for 180 yards and a TD in a 23-22 win. But last Sunday in Pittsburgh, Green was held to two catches on eight targets for 38 yards and no scores in a 24-16 loss. In the four games against the Broncos since he entered the league in 2011, Green has reeled in 22-of-36 targets for 280 yard and three TDs, including a five-yard scoring grab last season, and he figures to primarily draw the 6-2 Talib on Sunday. Talib had a 33-yard pick-six in the Broncos’ last trip to Cincy, a 37-28 Monday-night loss late in the 2014 season.
  • Ground battle: Offensively, it’s been tale of two teams so far in 2016 with C.J. Anderson and the Broncos ranking fifth in the league in rushing yards per game (141) and sixth in yards per carry (4.7) while the Bengals rank 32nd (51.5) and 30th (2.8) in the two categories, respectively. As for run defense, both the Bengals (32nd with 138 yards) and Broncos (24th with 120) rank in the league’s bottom third in terms of yards allowed per game and both are giving up more than 4.2 yards per carry. The Denver D also has to be wary of Cincy’s Gio Bernard running routes out of the backfield as he’s caught the third-most passes among league RBs so far with 11 for 105 yards and a TD. Whichever team wins this battle Sunday will go a long way towards winning the scoreboard war.
  • Backup-TE tussle: With C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft filling in for Eifert, and Broncos starter Virgil Green ruled out Friday due to a calf issue, the field will be filled with backup tight ends Sunday. That could mean Broncos Country’s first regular-season glimpse of oft-injured 2015 third-round pick Jeff Heuerman, who will try to help fill the cleats of Denver’s third-most productive pass-catcher so far in Green (seven receptions for 74 yards). And while the Denver reserve tight ends (including vet John Phillips) have yet to log a reception, Uzomah and Kroft have combined for eight catches for 103 yards. This could turn out to be an under-the-radar factor Sunday.

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