Previewing the Denver Broncos critical matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a touchdown pass to Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) (not pictured) in the fourth quarter of a Week 14 NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-23. San Francisco 49ers At Cincinnati Bengals Dec 12

Following an emotional victory against the Detroit Lions, the Denver Broncos have put themselves in a legitimate position to make the playoffs. 

On Sunday, they face the inconsistent 7-6 Cincinnati Bengals. Four of their losses have been decided by only three points, making them arguably the most challenging offense the Broncos have faced thus far. This game has huge implications for the AFC’s playoff picture as both teams are fighting for a spot. 

The Broncos (7-6 overall), who hope to end their six-year losing streak against the Chiefs, go into Sunday’s game as three-point favorites.

Here’s what the Broncos can expect to face from the Bengals (7-6) in Week 15.

Bengals on Offense

The Bengals are currently the 14th-best overall offense. They will be facing the Broncos seventh overall defense. 

Joe Burrow has quietly put together an impressive season. So far, he has thrown for 3,483 yards and 25 touchdowns, putting him in the top 10 for both. However, he also leads the league in interceptions at 14 and sacks at 41.

The Bengals have arguably the best set of three wide receivers. Rookie Jamar Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins have over 600 yards each. Chase has 1,035 yards putting him at No. 5 in the league. Burrow typically makes a point to target a team’s weakness on their secondary. However, the Broncos don’t have any significant weaknesses.

Rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain will likely face off against Chase, setting up a massive matchup of first-year stars. The last time these two faced off in college, Chase caught six passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Surtain has been the best rookie cornerback this season, with four interceptions. If Surtain can contain Chase, that will help Denver immensely.

Running back Joe Mixon is having the best season of his career. He has the second-most rushing yards (1,306) and third-most rushing touchdowns (12).

The Broncos run defense has struggled at times this season, specifically against the Eagles and Browns. For the Broncos to win, it will be crucial that they contain him. If Burrow is able to use Mixon at his disposal, the Broncos offense won’t be able to keep up.

Bengals on Defense

The Bengals defense sits at No. 17, while the Broncos offense sits similarly at No. 19. 

Defensive end Trey Henrickson has 12.5 sacks on the season and is among the top 10 in the league. The Broncos’ offensive line has gotten better throughout the season, especially with the returns of Bobbie Massie and Garret Bolles; up front is definitely a matchup to look out for.

Cincinnati’s run defense has been phenomenal this season. They are only allowing an average of 93.1 yards per game. Denver relies heavily on running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams and if they aren’t able to get going, the Broncos are most likely doomed.

Teddy Bridgewater has not been stellar in the red zone, only scoring touchdowns 57.78 percent of the time. The Bengals are allowing teams to score 58.54 percent.

Starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is on the NFL’s COVID-19 reserve list. If he is out, that’ll definitely weaken the Bengals’ secondary, which has already been plagued with injuries this season.

Score Prediction: Broncos 27 -Bengals 24

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