On Monday night, when the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals face off in the game of the week, the stakes will be high. The Broncos have already wrapped up the AFC West divisional title but are looking to secure a first-round bye with a win against the Bengals (or an Indianapolis Colts loss).
Cincinnati, on the other hand, is clinging to a half game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. They control their own destiny and can clinch the AFC North, if they win their last two games against Denver and at divisional rival, Pittsburgh, in week 17.
Denver is coming off of a four-game winning streak, having solidified their running game. But recent events have raised a few questions with the health and stability of quarterback, Peyton Manning.
Is it just me, or is there something very similar with this picture? It wasn’t but 17 years ago that the Broncos were looking in the mirror and found that the way to win in the playoffs is by having a strong running game to compliment the aging John Elway and his aerial attack.
That year, (1997 – 1998) with Terrell Davis (don’t forget FB Howard Griffith and that amazing offensive line) on the scene, the Broncos kept the opposing defenses on their heels. Davis ran for 100+ yards in each playoff game (including the Super Bowl), leading the Broncos to Super Bowl XXXII victory and was named the Super Bowl MVP.
Manning will go down as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, but he is still human. He is a team player and will do what is best for the team, especially after a few talks with John Elway and perhaps some advice.
Long story short, Manning will be fine. He doesn't have to be Superman and attempt to get it all done himself.
He is likely saving himself for a run in this year’s playoffs. The way the Broncos defense has been playing and the team's commitment to the running game, they are planning for a few grind-it-out playoff games.
Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and the Bengals have been playing their best football as of late, winning six of their last eight games. In their two losses during that time, they have been outscored 69 to 24, with both losses coming at home.
While their passing game is ranked No. 23 in the NFL, their running game is No. 6, averaging 130 yards per game. The tandem of rookie Jeremy Hill and second-year man, Giovani Bernard, have proven to be one of the top 1-2 punches in the NFL.
Something will have to give on Monday night, as the Broncos pride themselves on being a top notch run stopping defense, ranking No. 2 in rushing yards given up per game (71).
The Bengals have more to lose in this game than the Broncos. The Broncos posses more talent in all aspects and will be too much for the Bengals to handle. The Broncos will attempt to control the time of possession and will likely try to time their strikes down-field to guys like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
DEN – 34
CIN - 13