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Denver Broncos' Keys to Victory: Week 16 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Ken Pomponio Avatar
December 26, 2015


Keys-to-Victory-Who: Denver Broncos (10-4) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (11-3)

What: 2015 Week 16

When: 6:30 p.m. MST, Monday, Dec. 28

Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High


Announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden

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

Odds: Broncos -3.5; O/U 39.5

Notable: The Broncos can wrap up their fifth straight AFC West title if they follow a Chiefs’ loss Sunday with a win here Monday night. The Orange & Blue also can clinch a playoff spot with a win plus a Sunday loss by either the Jets or Steelers. … The Bengals already have clinched a postseason berth but can win the AFC North with a win or a loss by the Steelers in Baltimore on Sunday. A Cincy win also puts the wraps on a first-round bye. … In the overall series, the Broncos hold a 19-9 lead, but the host Bengals won 37-28 in the Week 16 Monday-night finale a year ago. … The Broncos are 12-2 all-time against the Bengals in Denver, including a run of nine straight. The last Cincy win in the Mile High City came on Nov. 9, 1975 (17-16).  …The over-under total of 39.5 is the lowest total for a Broncos’ game since Week 17 of the 2011 season, when the Denver-Kansas City tilt finished well under the 37.5 total with the Chiefs beating the Tim Tebow-led Broncos 7-3.

The Keys

  • Four quarters of effort needed: Yeah, you knew this one was coming with the Orange and Blue having failed to score a second-half point in their last three games. The Broncos have not scored in the third quarter in six consecutive contests – dating to the Nov. 8 game in Indy – and have been outscored in the second half by a combined 55-30 over the last five outings, with 23 of those 30 points coming in the comeback win over the Patriots on Nov. 29. The splits have been no more glaring than they were last Sunday in the Steel City, when the Broncos rolled up 295 yards, including 207 passing as Brock Osweiler was 14 of 18 for three TDs, in building a 27-13 halftime lead. Over the second 30 minutes, though, the Broncos had 90 total yards, including 74 passing as Osweiler was 7 for 26, while the Steelers were putting up three unanswered touchdowns. That uneven, inconsistent effort isn’t going to cut it when playing postseason-level games.
  • Defensive rebound required: Hey, sure, it was Ben Roethlisberger and his crazy-talented group of pass-catchers – arguably the best contingent in the league – but the Denver D flunked its strength-vs.-strength showdown Sunday. The Steelers’ 354 passing yards and three aerial TDs last week were easily the worst marks allowed by the Denver D, which entered the contest without having allowed a 300-yard passer and only two receiving TDs to opposing wideouts. Pittsburgh receivers Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton were targeted on a combined 43 of Roethlisberger’s 54 passes and 32 were completed (74.4 percent) for 338 yards and three TDs. This week brings a different kind of strength-vs.-strength challenge as the Broncos’ top-ranked run defense (79.9 yards per game) squares off against the Bengals’ potent running-back duo of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. A year ago, as Broncos Country may recall, the then-rookie Hill steamrolled the Broncos for 147 yards and a TD in the Monday-night win, and in last week’s 24-14 win over the 49ers, the Bengals ran on 36 of their 61 plays to help protect QB AJ McCarron in his first start. Expect a similar strategy Monday night in what projects to be a tight defensive battle, and Wade Phillips’ D needs to re-establish itself with authority.
  • Win the miscue battle: The Broncos have lost or finished even in the turnover battle in five of their last seven games, and are 1-4 in those contests, beating only the Patriots. The Bengals, meanwhile, forced four turnovers Sunday in San Fran, and their three TD drives covered only 11, 36 and 20 yards. In its last six wins, Cincy is a plus-nine in turnover differential, meaning taking care of the ball and avoiding costly miscues will be at even more of a premium Monday night.


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