The Cincinnati Bengals will look to bounce back from their first loss of 2016 when they host the Denver Broncos in Week 3.
The Broncos come to Paul Brown Stadium with a seven-game win streak dating back to last season. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, that streak began with a Week 16 win over the shorthanded Bengals in overtime, 20-17.
Since then, Denver has ripped off seven straight wins, including a Super Bowl 50 victory over the Panthers. The Broncos have held opponents to 20 or fewer points per game during their streak and are the away team for the first time since a 34-27 loss in Pittsburgh in Week 15 of 2015.
The last time these two teams played in Cincinnati in 2014, running back Jeremy Hill had his best games as a pro. He rushed for 147 yards on 22 carries in a 37-28 victory, including an 85-yard touchdown run.
But that ground game, which finished sixth in rushing offense that year, dropped to 13th in 2015, has now fallen all the way to 31st heading into Week 3. Hill has rushed for just 53 yards and one score on 23 carries this season.
If the Bengals are going to win this matchup, having a more productive ground game is a must. That won’t be easy against a Denver defense that held opponents under 94 yards rushing 11 times in 2015 (including playoffs) and once this year.
Two of the games in which they allowed over 94 yards rushing were to Cam Newton and the Panthers. Newton is easily one of the game’s best dual-threat quarterbacks, but Andy Dalton has shown he can be a good rushing threat when needed. The Bengals may need to call more QB runs this week to get the Bengals’ ground game going against the Broncos’ defense.
The big change for Denver this year is Trevor Siemian taking over for Peyton Manning as the team’s starting quarterback. The second-year quarterback had never thrown an NFL pass before the season opener, and he’s struggled to stand out thus far.
His 74.4 QB rating ranks 31st in the NFL, and he’s thrown for just one score vs three interceptions. Siemian now faces a Bengals secondary that’s intercepted 13 passes over their last nine games (including playoffs).
At the Denver Post, Nicki Jhabvala points out how Denver’s red-zone woes could prove costly if they continue.
The red zone for the Broncos has become a troubled zone. After two games, Denver ranks 31st in the league in yards per play (0.95) and 29th in conversion rate (6-of-19, or 31.6 percent) inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Broncos’ two touchdowns in the red zone have come on the ground, and Siemian’s passer rating inside the 20 is 39.6, third-worst in the league.
At Odds Shark, Jon Campbell pointed out how defending Super Bowl champions do poorly in their first road game the following season.
Over at Mile High Report, Jeff Essary did a great breakdown of how Denver should use a lot of tackle-end stunts to beat the Bengals’ offensive line.
The Jets sacked Andy Dalton seven times in their week one match-up. Five in the first half! Denver is second in the league in sacks and have the league’s sack leader as well.
The Jets D-line is one of the best in the league and boasts a very talented trio of interior defenders, with not much edge rushing ability; almost the exact opposite of Denver.
However, the tactic New York used to get after Dalton so well is one that Wade Phillips likes to employ as well: T/E stunts. This is where the DT will engage to the outside to occupy blockers while the DE loops around inside, or vice versa. Denver often had Von Miller or Ware crash inside while Malik or Wolfe would use their athleticism for big guys and loop around the outside Let’s take a looksy.
Wade Phillips used these with great success last year with Malik, Wolfe, Von, and Ware. Two of those guys won’t be suiting up for Denver this week, but we still have very capable personnel to execute this.
Four of the Jets sacks came while using a variation of these stunts, and the rest of the sacks came from just straight interior pressure.
Denver’s pass rush is certainly an upgrade over the Jets’ and Steelers’ pass rush. Von Miller is easily the best pass-rusher in the NFL, and keeping him contained will be big for Cincinnati’s offense to remain efficient.
Odds and Betting Trends
The Bengals opened as 3.5-point favorites, but now are at -3. The total for this game was 41.5 points as of Friday afternoon.
- Cincinnati is 1-2-2 against the spread in its last five games.
- Cincinnati is 13-6 straight up in its last 19 games.
- The total has gone under in nine of Cincinnati's last 13 games.
- Cincinnati is 1-3-1 ATS in its last five games at home.
- Cincinnati is 18-6-1 straight up in its last 25 games at home.
- Denver is 4-0-1 against the spread in its last five games.
- Denver is 6-2 straight up in its last eight games on the road.
- The total has gone under in four of Cincinnati's last six games at home.
- Cincinnati is 5-2 against the spread in its last seven games when playing Denver.
- Cincinnati is 1-5 straight up in its last six games when playing Denver.
- The total has gone over in four of Cincinnati's last six games when playing Denver.
Noted Bengals believer and CBS columnist Pete Prisco has the Bengals pulling off a six-point win over the Broncos in Week 3.
The Bengals are home for the first time this season. It won't be easy. They face the Super Bowl champs, but I think their defense will smother Trevor Siemian in his first road start. Bengals take it.
Pick: Bengals 23, Broncos 17
Here is a roundup of how all of the expert pickers are calling this game:
- At CBS Sports, only Jason La Canfora is picking the Broncos to win, while the other seven experts are siding with the Bengals. In other news, La Canfora is still waiting to make and accurate report/prediction regarding the Bengals.
- SB Nation has eight of their 10 experts siding with the Bengals, including the Odds Shark computers.
- ESPN is also heavy with Cincinnati love, as eight of their nine pickers went with the Bengals.
NFL Picks Watch, which accounts for all of the picks across various websites, has Cincinnati getting 65 percent of picks as of the time this story was published.