If the game at Jacksonville felt like a hopeless cause for the Bengals, the game at Tennessee left the season feeling hopeless. Per FiveThirtyEight, a team with a 3-6 record has a 3% chance of making the postseason.
The last such team to do so – the 2012 Washington Redskins – finished the season at 10-6. The last such team to do so with a 9-7 record was the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars, with names like Mark Brunell and Tony Boselli. That team made it to the AFC Championship game before losing to the New England Patriots.
If there’s a member of the Bengals faithful who genuinely believes that this team is capable of such a run, they’re a better fan than this organization deserves.
OUT – CB Adam Jones
OUT – LB Kevin Minter
OUT – DT Pat Sims
QUESTIONABLE – CB William Jackson III
QUESTIONABLE – WR Brandon LaFell
Also listed: DE Michael Johnson, DE Chris Smith, S Shawn Williams
OUT – TE A.J. Derby
OUT – TE Jeff Heuerman
QUESTIONABLE – WR Cody Latimer
QUESTIONABLE – OT Donald Stephenson
Also listed: RB Jamaal Charles, LB Todd Davis, WR Bennie Fowler III, DE Adam Gotsis, OG Ron Leary, LB Brandon Marshall, QB Brock Osweiler, NT Domata Peko Sr., LB Shane Ray, CB Aqib Talib, WR Demaryius Thomas
A couple oddities here – first among them being that the Bengals cut Pat Sims on Saturday and elevated linebacker Hardy Nickerson from the practice squad. Second, the fact that of the eleven names that escaped the Broncos’ injury report without a game designation, three of them (Charles, Peko Sr., Talib) were listed with an ‘NIR’ injury (non-injury related).
What does that mean? Realistically, nothing. A cursory glance through Denver’s injury reports over the weeks shows all three players frequently carrying the designation, not participating in Wednesday practices and appearing fine otherwise. None of them have a reduced chance of seeing the field on Sunday.
On paper, this isn’t a matchup that inspires a lot of interest – the Broncos are in the same place as the Bengals for similar reasons. The Broncos have a quarterback vacuum while the Bengals have an anemic running game; both teams have defenses that might be ready to compete were it not for an utter lack of takeaways (Cincinnati has eight this season, tied for 30th in the NFL; Denver has seven).
As with every other week, the Bengals’ offensive production depends on how well A.J. Green performs. Denver’s defense comes in at eighth in the NFL in passing yardage allowed per game (204.0), while playing at a slightly lower level than the “No-Fly Zone” of recent years. The Bengals offensive line, especially on the bookends, looks like a glaring weakness in this matchup (even with the Shane Ray and Shaquil doing less to help Von Miller this season than expected).
The Bengals defense, as a whole, looks like more than a match for this Broncos offense. Regardless of the ceilings we’ve seen from receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders (among others), it’s been some time since we’ve seen production near that level from them. Having Brock Osweiler under center only exacerbates this problem for the Broncos.
Vegas Odds (11/18): Denver (-2.5); Over/Under 39.0
Editor’s Prediction: Bengals 21, Broncos 20
While the Bengals have been 1-3 since their bye week (with a total victory margin of one point in their lone win), the Broncos have gone 0-5. They’ve scored a combined 68 points in those five games, only crossing 20 points once, and seem unlikely to do so against one of the best defenses they’ve yet faced. The Bengals – widely being picked against, as they were last week – have hardly enjoyed a strong offensive unit, but even the approach of living and dying with A.J. Green carries some upside. Brock Osweiler carries none.
– Andy Hammel is the managing editor for cover32/Bengals and covers the Cincinnati Bengals for cover32. Follow him on Twitter at @Andy_Hammel, and the cover32 Bengals team at @cover32_CIN.