The Cincinnati Bengals face a familiar foe in the Denver Broncos this week, as they travel for the third consecutive week. A seventh loss all but seals their fate of staying at home this January, so sneaking out of Mile High Stadium with a win could help turn things around.
Here are the top areas in which the Bengals need to execute if they want to beat the Broncos on their home turf.
Keep the explosive Broncos receivers in check:
Because of issues at quarterback, it hasn’t been the same kind of year for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Even with Brock Osweiler now at the helm, we know these two are capable of breaking a game wide open.
Heck, look at last season’s Week 3 game in Cincinnati. The now-benched Trevor Siemian had a career day against the Bengals’ defense, with Sanders going for 117 yards and two scores, while his counterpart had 100 yards and a touchdown.
It has been an up-and-down year for many of the players in the Bengals’ secondary and they face a tough test this week. Dre Kirkpatrick and Josh Shaw will particularly need big bounce-back days after struggling against the Titans last week.
Show up on the critical downs:
We hate to beat a dead horse, but last week, the Bengals allowed six automatic first downs to the Titans because of defensive penalties. That’s simply ridiculous and there is almost no way a team can win with that type of play. It can’t happen against Thomas and Sanders this week.
Also, last week, the Bengals’ offense was a deplorable 1-for-10 on third downs, with many drives stalling out quickly. Forcing the Bengals’ defense back on the field after three quick offensive plays won’t cut it. Cincinnati needs to aim for about a 50 percent success rate on third down for their offense.
Ride Joe Mixon:
Even though many believed that Joe Mixon was the most talented back in this year’s draft, it hasn’t translated to such in the stat columns. Going into last week, Mixon was averaging 2.9 yards per carry, but he had a number of nice sprints, gaining more than four yards per carry on nine rushes versus Tennessee.
The Broncos are pretty firm against the run, as they currently rank No. 5 in yards allowed. Still, with Jeremy Hill now on Injured Reserve, it’s time for the Bengals to see if Mixon has as high of a ceiling as many believe he possesses.
Tackle, Tackle, Tackle:
What has happened to the Bengals’ defense? Though they have been facing some talented players this year, it seems as if it’s taking the third and/or fourth players to bring a ball-carrier down in 2017.
One overlooked aspect with the tackling this year could be the lack of physical practices in camp, but nevertheless, if the Bengals want to make one final push to the postseason on Sunday, they’ll need to consistently wrap up Broncos players. If they don’t, Sanders, Thomas, C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles will have field days.
Give playing time to the youngsters:
We’re not saying the Bengals’ 2017 is dead yet, but the mathematics aren’t in their favor for a postseason appearance. Usually when a team is looking to the next season, they start giving snaps to some of their young players to see what they have for the future. We saw that after A.J. Green’s injury last year as Cody Core was given vast opportunities.
When you’re struggling in so many facets, why not give John Ross, J.J. Dielman, Christian Westerman, Josh Malone and others some looks? If anything, they could provide a sizzle and keep the Broncos on their heels due to a lack of pro film to watch.