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NFL Week 11 Bengals at Broncos: 5 Bengals who need to excel in Denver

Who are the key players that need to step up to keep the Bengals’ disappearing playoff hopes alive against the Broncos?

Denver Broncos v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

This Sunday, the Bengals face a tough battle as they head to Denver to take on the 3-6 Broncos. Marvin Lewis’ teams haven’t had much success against Denver, and this one should spell the official end of one team’s season as both squads have the same bad record heading into Week 11.

Here are five Bengals who, for varying reasons, need to have strong performances if the Bengals want to move to 4-6 in 2017.

William Jackson:

Normally, a guy who is slated as the team’s third or fourth corner wouldn’t be someone we readily point out, but he might have to step into a starting role this week. Adam Jones is battling a concussion, so it may very well be last year’s first round pick covering Emmanuel Sanders.

Last year, Jones and the secondary allowed Sanders to have nine catches for 117 yards and two scores, while Demaryius Thomas had another 100 yards a touchdown. Though he’s inexperienced because of a redshirt year as a rookie, Jackson’s speed and athleticism should help out the Bengals’ passing defense.

Giovani Bernard:

With Jeremy Hill now on Injured Reserve, Joe Mixon will be getting the lion’s share of the carries. Still, Bernard should be a part of Bill Lazor’s game plan in a variety of aspects.

Even though the plays that have been coming his way have been both rare and predictable, Bernard has made the most out of his touches. He’s averaging 4.0 yards per carry in 2017, as well as 11.5 yards per catch. This explosiveness should come in handy against the Broncos’ defense, who is No. 5 rush defense and No. 8 against the pass. It’s time for Lazor to figure out how to use Bernard to his advantage.

Cedric Ogbuehi:

The team’s 2015 first round selection should probably be on this list every week until he can prove to be a viable starting option on the offensive line. Ogbuehi had a rough week again versus Tennessee, as he allowed a sack/strip/fumble to Brian Orakpo that led to a DeMarco Murray touchdown.

Last year, Von Miller took advantage of Ogbuehi on the right side, as he brought down Andy Dalton for a sack. This year, Ogbuehi might see a bit of Miller, but he’ll mostly get looks from Derek Wolfe and Shane Ray on Sunday.

Carlos Dunlap:

It’s been an off year for the star defensive end, who has made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons. Even though the Bengals are tied for the seventh-best ranking in sacks with 26, Dunlap has just two this year after logging 21.5 from 2015-2016.

Carl Lawson has been the most consistent pass-rusher for the Bengals, but his snaps remain limited behind Michael Johnson. So, with the immobile Brock Osweiler at quarterback, big No. 96 will need to have an even bigger game on defense.

John Ross:

Ross needing a big game isn’t so much about a key to team success, but more about building his own confidence. After dealing with a shoulder injury when drafted and then a knee injury during the first part of the season, the team’s first round, No. 9 overall pick has been in Marvin Lewis’ doghouse, with the head coach recently calling out his performance against the Titans.

However, if he were to find his stride this Sunday, it would definitely give the offense an unexpected boost. Lazor’s unit needs to sustain more drives to ease up on the defense, and letting Ross make some plays with his yards-after-the-catch ability could help. But, knowing Lewis and his orneriness, we shouldn’t have high hopes for No. 15 yet.