Two teams fighting to remain in the AFC wild-card race will meet in Week 13 when the Denver Broncos visit the Cincinnati Bengals. Game time is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 2, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Fans in local markets can watch the game on CBS.
Oddsmakers list the Broncos as 4.5-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 44 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 13 NFL betting odds.
After entering their bye week at 3-6, the Broncos have suddenly climbed back into the playoff hunt with back-to-back wins over the Chargers and Steelers. Denver received some good fortune in those wins, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. Remember, most of Denver’s losses this year have been one-possession games against division leaders like the Chiefs and Rams, so they’re a little better than their record suggests.
Of course, at 5-6, the Broncos still don’t have much margin for error. They are one of six teams that are eight 6-5 or 5-6 and fighting for one wild-card spot in the AFC. On the bright side, their schedule eases up down the stretch. Over the next three weeks, Denver will play the 49ers, Browns, and Raiders. If they can get a road win on Sunday, the Broncos shouldn’t be overlooked in the playoff race given that schedule.
The Bengals, on the other hand, are moving in the other direction and fading fast. Cincy has lost three in a row and five of their last six games. They have fallen to 5-6, although they are still one of the six teams in the mix for that last spot. However, their playoff hopes took another hit last week when Andy Dalton went down with a season-ending thumb injury.
With Jeff Driskel taking over for Dalton at quarterback, the Bengals face a tough December schedule. After hosting the Broncos on Sunday, Cincinnati hits the road for three of their last four games. They play both the Chargers and Steelers away from home during that stretch, making Sunday’s game with Denver a must-win for them.
It always worries me to eat more than a field goal for a road favorite. But the Bengals are spiraling and playing a backup quarterback while the Broncos are ascending. I’d feel a little better if the spread were a couple of points lower. However, I’ll take my chances with a Denver team that has beaten two quality teams the last two weeks being able to win comfortably against a bad team this week.
Obviously, Driskel starting for the Bengals is the story of this game. He was decent in relief of Dalton last week. But 155 passing yards on 29 attempts isn’t’ anything to write home about. It should help that A.J. Green is expected to return after missing the last three games due to injury. However, we still don’t know what to expect from him in his first career start.
Driskel’s biggest problem could be facing Denver’s vicious pass rush. While he’s a good athlete, if Driskel doesn’t get rid of the ball quickly, he’ll have Von Miller and company coming after him all day. Keep in mind that the Bengals placed right tackle Jake Fisher on IR this week, which could make the Cincinnati offensive line vulnerable against Denver’s pass rush. That pass rush has helped the Broncos to force six turnovers over the last two weeks. The Broncos could very well add to that number against an inexperienced quarterback.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos continue to have a productive running game behind rookie Phillip Lindsay. He went off for 110 yards on 14 carries against a solid Pittsburgh defense last week and is gaining 5.8 yards per carry on the season. This week, Lindsay and the Broncos will be facing one of the worst rush defenses in the league. As long as the Broncos can run the ball effectively, they won’t have to ask too much of Case Keenum.
Of course, the Cincinnati pass defense hasn’t been all that great this season either. The Bengals are giving up over 300 yards per game through the air and were picked apart by rookie Baker Mayfield a week ago. They are also giving up over 36 points per game over their last six games. With a first-time starter at quarterback, the Cincinnati defense has to do a lot better than that this week.
Admittedly, I’m a little skeptical of Denver’s offense being able to score enough points to win by a comfortable margin and beat the spread. The Broncos have also struggled in the eastern time zone this year. However, Denver’s defense has held the Chiefs and Rams well below their season average this year, so I think they’ll have their way with Driskel. Ultimately, a good running game and a couple of turnovers should be enough to help the Broncos cover.