Cincinnati (11-3) at Denver (10-4)
When: Monday, December 28th 2015
Where: Sports Authority Field, Denver, CO
Time: 8:30 ET | TV: ESPN
Playoff positioning is on the line when the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos meet in the final Monday Night game of the season. The Bengals wrapped up the AFC North title yesterday when the Steelers lost to the Ravens, but they still have a shot at the AFC’s top seed. Quarterback Andy Dalton is still out with a fractured thumb, so A.J. McCarron will get his second start. The Alabama product was 15-of-21 for 192 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 24-14 win at San Francisco. He will once again be without star tight end Tyler Eifert, who is out with a concussion. Wide receiver A.J. Green was limited last week and had one catch for 37 yards. He should be good to go tonight. Green is currently 5th in the AFC with 1,206 receiving yards. The running game has struggled mightily the last two weeks as Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill have combined for just 120 yards on 46 carries. Hill had a huge game against Denver last season rushing for 147 yards and a TD in a 37-28 win. Cincinnati’s defense has been the big story this year leading the NFL in points allowed at 17.4 and ranking 8th overall in yards allowed. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins have combined for 20.5 sacks this season. They are ranked 5th and 6th in the AFC in that category.
The Denver Broncos have yet to clinch a playoff spot and with a loss tonight and next week, could be on the outside looking in. The Broncos have suffered two straight losses and the Kansas City Chiefs are right on their tail in the AFC West. Quarterback Brock Osweiler will make his sixth start for the injured future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning. Osweiler won his first three starts, but has struggled in the last two including the second half of last week’s 34-27 loss at Pittsburgh. He threw for three touchdowns in the first half last week, but for the third straight game, failed to produce a single point in the second half. The running game has been a mess all season and the combination of Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson have not broke 100 yards in the last three weeks. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is coming off a huge game in which he caught 10 balls for 181 yards and a touchdown. Demaryius Thomas caught two touchdowns and now has 1,128 yards receiving on the season. The Denver defense was scorched by Ben Roethlisberger last week, but are still ranked number against the run and pass.
I think Denver’s defense is really going to give McCarron problems tonight and I’m not worried about the Bengals running game at all. Osweiler will finally produce a second half score and the Broncos will roll tonight.
Pick: Broncos -3.5