Both starting quarterbacks have been lost to injury, but the stakes are still high in Monday night’s clash between the visiting Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos. Despite losing starter Andy Dalton to a fractured right thumb two weeks ago, the Bengals can wrap up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the postseason with a victory.
Cincinnati, which holds a one-game edge over Denver and is one game behind New England for the best record in the AFC, can also wrap up the AFC North with a win. “It will be fun, it’s a great opportunity,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “Both teams have earned it, and we’ve got to have at it.” Brock Osweiler will make his sixth consecutive start in place of Peyton Manning for Denver, which blew a 17-point halftime lead in a 34-27 defeat at Pittsburgh last weekend. The Broncos still have a chance at the No. 2 seed but also had their lead cut to one game over Kansas City in the AFC West.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: The Broncos opened as 3.5-point home favorites and were bet down to -3, but have come back up to the opening number. The total opened at 41 and has since come down 2-points to now sit at 39.
Bengals – WR A. Green (probable Monday, back), T J. Fisher (questionable Monday, concussion), S G. Iloka (questionable Monday, knee), WR M. Alford (questionable Monday, personal), TE T. Eifert (out Monday, concussion), QB A. Dalton (out indefinitely, thumb).
Broncos – RB C. Anderson (probable Monday, back), QB B. Osweiler (probable Monday, shoulder), S T. Ward (questionable Monday, ankle), S O. Bolden (questionable Monday, groin), S D. Stewart (questionable Monday, hamstring), LB L. McCray (questionable Monday, hamstring), QB P. Manning (out Monday, foot).
WEATHER REPORT: It will be a chilly night in Denver. It will be a clear night, but temperatures will be in the low 20’s to high teens for the game.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Bengals (-3) – Broncos (-3) + home field (-3) = Broncos -3
CAPPERS SAY: “Despite the fact that TE Tyler Eifert didn?t play and AJ Green limped off the field early, backup QB AJ McCarron looked solid even with a VERY conservative gameplan at San Francisco. As for Denver, after going 8-8 on third downs while racking up 27 first half points against the Steelers, Brock Osweiler?s second half was ugly: 7-26 for 82 yards, with only one third down conversion.” – Covers Expert Teddy Covers.
ABOUT THE BENGALS (11-3, 11-2-1 ATS, 7-7 O/U): A.J. McCarron threw for two touchdowns and two interceptions in relief of Dalton in a loss to Pittsburgh, but was solid in a 24-14 win at San Francisco with 192 yards on 15-of-21 despite the absence of star tight end Tyler Eifert and limited nature of top wideout A.J. Green. With Eifert set to miss a second straight game due to a concussion and Cincinnati’s ground game struggling the past two weeks, McCarron will have his hands full with the league’s top-ranked defense. The Bengals are no slouches on the other side of the ball, allowing a league-low 17.4 points per game.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (10-4, 8-6 ATS, 5-8-1 O/U): Osweiler threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the first half alone against Pittsburgh, but for the third straight week he was unable to put any points on the scoreboard in the second half as Denver lost its second in a row. The running game has not been much of a factor all season, but Emmanuel Sanders came alive with 10 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown and fellow wideout Demaryius Thomas had a pair of scoring receptions. The Broncos were torched by Pittsburgh’s passing game, but they are tied for the league lead with 47 sacks and feature the No. 1 run defense.
* Bengals are 7-0 ATS in their last 7 road games.
* Broncos are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 Monday games.
* Under is 4-1 in Bengals last 5 vs. AFC.
* Under is 5-1-1 in Broncos last 7 home games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Fifty-seven percent of bettors are backing the Broncos in this Monday night matchup. As for the total, 61 percent of wagers are on the over.