Round table: How can Broncos beat the Bengals, keep playoff hopes alive?

Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III (25) celebrates his touchdown carry with teammates tight end Eric Saubert (82) and tight end Noah Fant (87) and Lloyd Cushenberry III (79) in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Empower Field at Mile High.
Dec 12, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III (25) celebrates his touchdown carry with teammates tight end Eric Saubert (82) and tight end Noah Fant (87) and Lloyd Cushenberry III (79) in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are coming off an emotional week, capped by a 38-10 win against the Detroit Lions. Now at 7-6, the Broncos face-off with the also 7-6 Cincinnati Bengals.

A win and the Broncos’ chances of reaching the playoffs grow significantly. A loss and Denver will begin scouting college bowl games a bit early.

What is the impression of the Broncos following the win against the Lions? How many games does Denver need to win to finish the season for a post-season win? Who needs to play well for the Broncos to beat the Bengals? Who will the story be Sunday? Score predictions versus the Bengals.

The Mile High Sports team gives their insight on all things Broncos.

Initial impressions of the Broncos win against the Lions? Was it a good performance or simply played a bad team?

JT Matthews (@JTMatthews01): My impression of the win against the Lions was that Denver was fired up and motivated and got the job done against an inferior team. I am aware that this is an obvious statement but so much of the Broncos season has been like predicting the next Colorado lottery winning numbers. To have a grasp on what the Broncos will do on the field any given Sunday is akin to prophecy. I won’t pretend that I was supremely confident that they would beat the Lions, but I am glad that is what occurred. This is a playoff-caliber team, they just need to continue to play like one.

Lindsay Bebout (@lindsaybebout): My initial impressions are that we could have easily won some of the games we lost early in the season if we had focused on the run game more (looking at you, Shurmy). I want to say good performance, but we’ve been down this road too many times for me to get excited!

Zach Segars (@Zach_Segars): It was a good performance. Look at what the playoff-hopeful Steelers and Vikings did against the Lions. Or the Browns, Ravens, and 49ers against the Lions. Or the Bills against the Jags. Easy matchups don’t guarantee easy wins. This is the NFL, it’s hard to win games.

Joey Richards (@JRDrafts): I think both can be true. The Broncos played a bad team but also played well against them. This game should be included in the bigger sample size of recent games to show fans that the Broncos are playing their best football as of late.

Rich Kurtzman (@RichKurtzman): It was a great game by the Broncos, but man, the Lions are awful. Can’t buy into it too much. Denver now has to have left business against a much better team in Cincy.

Nicholas Manning (@Dr_NManning): A bit of a mixture. The Detroit Lions are a bad football team. But, good football teams beat bad ones with ease just like the Broncos did. Their ability to run the ball at will was impressive regardless of who they played.

With four games against the Bengals, Raiders, Chargers, and Chiefs ahead of them, how many do the Broncos need to win to get into the playoffs?

Joey Richards: The Broncos have to at least go 3-1 over the next four games to have a good shot at the playoffs. Every game is vital at this point and the Broncos should treat any game as a must-win.

Zach Segars: Three will get it done, and if they’re extremely lucky there’s a chance two would. I think that means they have to beat their weakest opponent, the Raiders, and then play excellent football in two of the other three showings.
Nicholas Manning: The Broncos must win at least three of the four contests. However, which ones they win matter most. They need to improve their position by getting wins over their next three opponents (Bengals, Raiders, Chargers). Those teams are the ones vying for the same playoff bids as the Broncos.
Rich Kurtzman: Probably three. Maybe all four. All they can do is start with this week and beat the Bengals. Then, move on to the Raiders, which are most beatable compared to others in the division.
Lindsay Bebout: The Broncos need to win at least 3/4 to make the playoffs. The AFC is tight.
JT Matthews: I worry that Denver will need to win all four remaining games to guarantee a spot in the playoffs, but three of four will give them a real shot to get into the equation. I believe they are competent enough to do it but wouldn’t put the mortgage on it.

To beat the Bengals Sunday, Denver must _________, and why?

Rich Kurtzman: Not turn the ball over. If Teddy and the offense are only so-so, they will keep the team in the game as long as there are no turnovers. Of course, I expect them to run the ball a ton, so that means no fumbles.

Zach Segars: They must establish the run against one of the toughest run defenses they’ve faced. This Broncos team is centered on their ground attack, but the Bengals might be able to slow them with a run defense that ranks 10th in DVOA.
Joey Richards: For the Broncos to win they must gain an early lead. Falling behind early has been the biggest issue with this Broncos team the entire season. They’re simply not made for comeback wins because of a lack of franchise quarterback.

Lindsay Bebout: I think at their best (which they don’t always play at), the Bengals are the scariest offense the Broncos have faced. They haven’t faced a team with a more impressive set of three receivers. Get to Joe Burrow (who leads all quarterbacks in sacks with 41) and prevent Joe Mixon from being a go-to option.

JT Matthews: To beat the Bengals Sunday Denver must slow Cincinnati’s pass rush. Cincy has been a menace to opposing quarterbacks and will look to put pressure on Teddy Bridgewater. If Denver can mitigate the pressure by establishing the run and giving their offensive linemen support with chipping tight ends and running backs they should accomplish that goal.
Nicholas Manning: JT convinced me… get a few big plays in the passing game. The Bengals have a stout run defense and at some point, Bridgewater has to make them pay for inevitability stacking the box.

Who will be the story Sunday if Denver wins?

Zach Segars: Teddy Bridgewater. The easy — and probably right — answer is either of the running backs, but there’s a good chance the Bengals stiff-run D stifles Williams and Gordon. If that’s the case it’ll be on Bridgewater to lead the offense.
JT Matthews: I hope that Teddy Bridgewater will be the story for Denver. The running game has been extremely formidable and will hopefully continue to be but Teddy needs to finish drives by creating opportunities for Denver’s dynamic receivers. This would be the best-case scenario as it seems like the rest of the team is hitting their stride and Teddy hasn’t quite done so yet.
Lindsay Bebout: Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon.

Joey Richards: If the Broncos beat the Bengals, the headlines will be about Vic Fangio. His team playing better as of late, he may have a more realistic chance at returning as the head football coach next season.

Nicholas Manning: Teddy Bridgewater must post above 100.0 passer rating for Denver to win. When he has done so this season, the Broncos are victorious, and when he struggles they lose. It is simple, the team goes as it goes.

Rich Kurtzman: Give me Patrick Surtain picking off Joe Burrow late to seal the win for Denver.

Score predictions and why?

Rich Kurtzman: Broncos win 23-20. They will come out fired up on defense and it’ll be a tough, low-scoring battle that comes down to the final whistle.  Broncos win 23-20. They will come out fired up on defense and it’ll be a tough, low-scoring battle that comes down to the final whistle.

Joey Richards: I think the Broncos eventually win this game 28-24. Playing with their back against the wall, the Broncos’ defense will continue their better play while the offense will be efficient.

Zach Segars: Broncos win 20-17. The Bengals are beat-up and getting ravaged by COVID. Their defense poses a threat to Denver’s ground attack, but ultimately, Fangio’s recent defensive dominance will reign supreme.
Lindsay Bebout: 27-24, Broncos. Am I delusional? Probably, but with our run game and our defense playing lights our, I think we can do it!
JT Matthews: I am predicting a 23-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. I am still concerned that Denver cannot score enough to keep up. If Denver can get ahead and dominate the time of possession their chances will go up exponentially but Cincy is an explosive team so even that may not be enough.
Nicholas Manning: The Broncos will stifle the young Bengals offense much like the Chargers and Chiefs games. Look for Denver to get an early lead, and the Bengals will make it interesting late. However, Denver comes away with a 24-20 win and gets to 8-6 and the 5th seed in the AFC playoff picture.
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