The Cincinnati Bengals have not lost at home in September since 2011. They face a tough task with defending Super Bowl-Champion Broncos coming to town on Sunday. Here are five players you need to watch.
5.) OT, Cedric Ogbuehi
Veteran linebacker DeMarcus Ware will not be on the field on Sunday due to an elbow injury. However, Denver’s defensive line is still one of the best in the NFL. Von Miller has 64 sacks and 17 forced fumbles since being drafted no. 2 overall by the Broncos in 2011. Cedric Ogbuehi is also a former first-round selection and a product of Texas A&M. In his third career NFL start, he should see a lot of the Super Bowl MVP.
Miller already has four sacks (the most in the NFL) through two games this season. Last week against Indianapolis, his strip sack of Andrew Luck led to a 15-yard fumble return touchdown by Shane Ray that put the game out of reach.
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4.) WR, Tyler Boyd
Perhaps more impressive than the defensive line, Denver’s secondary is arguably the best the NFL has to offer. In the last 25 regular-season games, the Broncos have allowed just two quarterbacks — Ben Roethlisberger and Kyle Orton — to eclipse the 300-yard passing mark.
After seeing multiple double-coverage looks against Pittsburgh last week, AJ Green is in for another tough matchup Sunday. Green should see multiple looks from Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib.
In 2014, Talib won the one-on-one battle with Green. The Bengals won the game, 37-28, but Talib opened the game’s scoring with a 33-yard pick-six in the first quarter after the ball ricocheted off Green’s outstretched arm. Green injured his arm on the play and stayed in the game, but failed to record a catch on four targets.
In last season’s meeting, Green found the end zone. Leaping over Talib to snag a five-yard score from AJ McCarron in the first quarter.
With Green and Brandon LaFell getting attention from Denver’s top two corners, Tyler Boyd can have an impact from the slot against Bradley Roby and Kayvon Webster. In his return to Pittsburgh last week, Boyd caught six of eight targets for 78 yards, but his controversial fumble in the fourth quarter spoiled an impressive homecoming.
3.) QB, Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton is the NFL’s leading passer through two weeks after consecutive 366-yard performances. But Dalton will see his toughest task of 2016 against Denver on Sunday.
Dalton missed last year’s loss to Denver due to a broken thumb that cost him his season. In the playoff-clinching victory over the Broncos in 2014, Dalton shook off the aforementioned pick-six by Talib to complete 17 of 25 passes for 146 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Red Rifle led the NFL last season with a 2.21-second release time, something that needs to be in full effect to help slow down Denver’s fierce pass rush.
Dalton could also benefit largely from a running game that ranks dead last in the AFC after two games. Last week in Pittsburgh, Dalton threw a career-high 54 times; not a winnable formula for the Bengals based on the last five seasons.
Since joining Cincinnati in 2011, the Bengals are 23-5 when Dalton throws less than 30 passes, compared to a 28-21-1 mark when he throws 30 or more.
2.) QB, Trevor Siemian
The Broncos may be 2-0, but quarterback Trevor Siemian‘s play has been sub-par at best. Despite winning his first two starts, Siemian has tossed for just 444 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.
All three of Siemian’s interceptions have been deep in opponent’s territory. So he has done a good job driving Denver’s offense but hasn’t been able to turn those drives into points.
Now, the young gunslinger goes on the road for the first time, in an environment he can’t control. In the last 28 regular-season games at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals are 22-5-1 and have help opposing quarterbacks to a 59 percent completion rate and just 236 yards per game.
1.) RB, CJ Anderson
Gary Kubiak is 6-0 as a head coach against the Bengals. An enormous part of his success against Cincinnati has been running the football effectively. In the Texans‘ back-to-back playoff victories over the Bengals in 2011 & ’12, Arian Foster racked up 341 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.
In Denver’s 20-17 overtime win against Cincinnati last season, CJ Anderson‘s 39-yard touchdown scamper gave the Broncos a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter. Anderson has rushed for 156 yards and two scores on 27 attempts in two career games against the Bengals.
In 2016, Anderson has been the workhorse in the backfield for the Broncos, running the ball 40 times in two games and scoring three of Denver’s four offensive touchdowns.
Stopping Anderson has to be at the top of the Bengals’ list of priorities on Sunday. If Cincinnati can slow down Anderson and rookie running back Devontae Booker (4.5 yards per carry this season), they can force Siemian into uncomfortable third-and-long situations.
Since 2012, the Bengals have allowed just five running backs — Trent Richardson, Jonathan Dwyer, Jonathan Franklin, Le’Veon Bell, and Thomas Rawls — to run for 100 yards at Paul Brown