The NFL regular season has only two weeks remaining, and the playoffs are beginning to take shape. Currently, seven of the twelve playoff spots are filled–five in the NFC, and two in the AFC. Some teams are steaming towards the post season, while some seem to be running uphill and out of gas. By the end of Week 16, we could see all the division battles locked up and all but a couple wild card spots settled.
More from Stripe Hype
- 3 advantages the Bengals have over the Ravens in 2022
- Zac Taylor doesn’t need to see Joe Burrow play in preseason
- Bengals 2022 Training Camp: Top 3 takeaways from Day 10
- Bengals announce uniform schedule for 2022 season
- Bengals TE Drew Sample can’t let injury hinder 2022 season
Last week, the Bengals
, but we know that Bengals fans want more. While listening to
, I heard Chick Ludwig make a comment that this could be one of the five biggest games in the Bengals history, and I agree it’s a huge huge game. This Monday night against the Denver Broncos will be a crucial game not just for this year, but in the Marvin Lewis era. Win, lock up that #2 seed, rest up, and make a push for another trip to Santa Clara, CA, home of Super Bowl 50.
1. Under 24 combined points scored
This game has all the makings of a defensive showcase. The Broncos have the top overall defense and the Bengals have the top scoring defense. Throw that in with both teams starting backup quarterbacks and pathetic run games and you have yourself a defensive slobber knocker. The Broncos have had second half collapses in three straight games and while Brock Osweiler has been effect at times, teams seem to have adjusted and figured out how to disrupt his game, in the second half he is completing 23% less passes then the first.The Bengals also had trouble last week scoring points on offense without starting on a short field. Even though the Bengals offense was facing a terrible 49ers defense, they failed to score in the first quarter and only scoring three points in the second half. Was that because of a conservative game plan, or inept offensive line play? The bottom line is points will be at a premium this week and a 13-9 score isn’t out of the possibility.
2. Special Teams Impact The Game
Offense, Defense, oh yeah special teams. Often over looked, special teams units don’t get much attention until something significant happens, good or bad. This is a game where I see special teams being in a couple of the highlights. Football Outsiders has the Bengals ranked 8th in total DVOA for their special teams. DVOA is the impact on scoring that special teams has. Denver is ranked 14th in total DVOA. I expect both teams to pull out all the stops for this one because of what is on the line. If the Bengals win, they clinch the #2 seed and can rest players for two weeks.If the Broncos don’t win the next two, they could potentially miss out on the playoffs all together.I do expect to see Adam Jones on some returns for the Bengals, as he possesses the ability to change field position quickly and field position will play a major role in this game. Flipping the field with the punting game is going to be key as well. A short field for the offense might be the only way to get points on the board. Both punters in the game have 18 punts inside the 20, but Denver’s punter Britton Colquitt has had 20 more punts then Bengals punter Kevin Huber. If either team is forced to start drives inside its own 15-yard-line these defenses are just too good to drive the field on.
3. Tight Ends Produce
I’m sure that the Broncos have watched a lot of games the Bengals have played when scouting them this week. One thing that has to stick out is how open the middle of the field is when the Bengals play teams with big time outside receivers. In two games against the Steelers, Heath Miller combined for 23 catches and 171 yards. Denver’s Owen Daniels fits a similar mold, and I can see him being a safety blanket for Denver’s offense. I don’t know if the Bengals can be effective with rookie Tyler Kroft and Ryan Hewitt. However, an couple teams have had some success cutting the middle of the Denver defense with tight ends. Two weeks ago, the Oakland Raiders used their tandem to gain 97 yards and a touchdown. The New England Patriots targeted their tight ends 21 times for 11 catches, 146 yards and a touchdown. Kraft and Hewitt could be very valuable working the middle, and beating matchups on the outside.
Final Prediction: Bengals 17, Broncos 13
I just have a feeling about this one. If it were in Cincinnati I would feel even more confident, but I think this team and the coaches finally understand how important this season is. A win this week is like a playoff win in my opinion, big game, big stage, big ramifications. This is where we will see what this team is truly made of.