This weekend’s matchup between the Broncos and Bengals isn’t one of two undefeated squads. It is, however, a game that features two of the best teams in the AFC. Denver is coming off of a commanding defensive win over the Colts, while the Bengals lost a physical, rainy battle to the division rival Steelers. Cincinnati’s schedule won’t get any easier with the Broncos paying a visit, but the Bengals do have a home-field advantage that makes this a more evenly matched contest. Unfortunately, Denver’s defense will be too much to handle, and C.J. Anderson is a running back on a mission. Here are three reasons the Broncos will beat the Bengals on Sunday afternoon.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
Bengals hangover from two tough games
The Bengals could easily be 0-2 right now instead of 1-1. Had they lost their first two games, though, it would be hard to call them a bad team. In Week 1, they edged the Jets by one point, which was followed by an eight-point loss to the Steelers in Week 2. They’ve had one of the toughest schedules to start the season, and it doesn’t get any easier with the Broncos coming to town. There’s a chance the Bengals will be “hungover” from two hard-fought games the past couple of weeks, causing them to come out sluggish – especially considering the physicality of their game against the Steelers.
The Broncos, on the other hand, are coming off of a comfortable win over the Colts. Indianapolis isn’t nearly as physical as the Steelers are, and it showed in the box score with Pittsburgh running the ball 36 times compared to the Colts’ 21. NFL players are trained to be ready each week, but the Bengals might be reeling after an emotional loss to the Steelers.
Denver’s pass rush
The Jets sacked Andy Dalton seven times in the season opener. New York’s defensive line is matched by few in the NFL, but the Broncos have the best pure pass rusher in Von Miller. Cincinnati typically has a solid offensive line, however it was exposed against the Jets. The interior of the Jets’ front dominated the middle of the Bengals’ O-line, and the Broncos can be expected to do the same, opening up one-on-one matchups for Miller on the edge.
Miller is playing the best football of his life right now, and it’s dated back to last postseason. His impact on defense can’t be overstated, particularly with DeMarcus Ware sidelined. The Bengals are going to throw the ball often with Dalton leading the league in passing yards, and should the Broncos jump out to an early lead, it will make Cincinnati’s offense even more predictable. Dalton will need to have his head on a swivel come Sunday.
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In his past 11 games — including the postseason — Anderson has rushed for 796 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. He’s also scored eight touchdowns on the ground in that span and has been one of the most productive backs since the middle of last season. He doesn’t get much attention because of the quarterback situation in Denver, but Anderson is a big reason the Broncos have been as successful as they’ve been. And in addition to his totals on the ground, Anderson has helped Trevor Siemian in the passing game. He’s caught seven passes for 66 yards and a touchdown this season.
As solid as he’s been through two games, Anderson could have his best outing yet against the Bengals’ 32nd-ranked rush defense. Cincinnati hasn't allowed a touchdown yet on the ground, and the longest run against it is just 16 yards, but opponents have pounded the ball with a great deal of success. The Broncos have won by running the ball and playing outstanding defense, and that’s what I’d expect them to do against the Bengals. Anderson is a difference-maker – most people just don’t realize that yet.