Cincinnati Bengals (11-3 SU, 11-2-1 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (10-4 SU, 8-6 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Monday, December 28, 2015, 8:30 pm EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
TV: ESPN, DirecTV 206
by Badger, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CIN +3.5/DEN -3.5
Over/Under Total: 41
Two teams that are currently sitting as the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the AFC playoffs, but yet both are facing major quarterback issues as the season closes, will try and inch closer to the NFL finish line when the Cincinnati Bengals go on the road to Mile High to face the Denver Broncos on ESPNs final Monday Night Football telecast of 2015.
The Bengals played their first game without Andy Dalton last week, pretty much controlling San Francisco from the get go before finally letting the 49ers score late to make it look closer than it was at, 24-14. The Bengals didnt ask much of A.J. McCarron in the win (15-of-21, 192 and TD), but its going to be a huge step up in class this week when the former Alabama QB faces the NFLs top defense in the Broncos in the primetime spotlight.
Denver has been playing without Peyton Manning of course, and while Brock Osweiler has looked good in Mannings absence, he also took a helmet on the shoulder in last weeks loss at Pittsburgh, 34-27, and will start the week in the training room instead of on the practice field. The Broncos hold a slim lead over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West division, so look for Denver to try and showcase that No. 1 defense in front of the nation in the last Monday Night Football game this season.
Denver opened the Monday Night affair as modest 3.5-point favorites at home, and even though the public is starting to approach heavy money on the Broncos at this point (59-41% on DEN), the betting line hasnt moved at all in the first 24 to 48 hours of being live. The over/under total opened at 40 or 40.5 depending on where you wager, and after the early steam there are a bunch of sportsbooks both offshore and in Las Vegas with the total already up to 41.
McCarrons task could be easier if the Bengals work hard to get the running game established, like they did in their win over the 49ers last week. The Bengals grinded out 34 carries between Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill in the 49ers game, but doing it against the Broncos (79,9 ypg 1st) is going to be a tall task. The Bengals would benefit from the return of Tyler Eifert, who sat out last week in the NFL concussion protocol.
This game will likely be a showcase of playoff-caliber defense, as the Bengals unit is no slouch and is 4th in the NFL at +9 this season in giveaway/takeaway ratio. Especially is Osweiler falls under pressure from the Bengals trio of Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson.
With backups at QB for both teams its hard to use any historical data in handicapping the game. This will literally be the second game the Bengals will play without Dalton in five seasons since he was drafted. Osweiler still only has five starts and 250 throws in the NFL, so were still writing the opening chapter on the book for him as a potential NFL starting QB.
Cincinnati has been an excellent wager on the road this season, going a perfect 7-0 ATS thus far. For whatever reason, Denver has struggled in the spotlight of Monday Night in recent seasons, going 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven appearances in primetime. The underdog betting trend in the head-to-head meetings between these two (dog is 5-1 ATS in L6), and the road team (visitor 4-1 ATS in L5) also both point in favor of the Bengals.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Denver defense finally looked vulnerable last week at Pittsburgh, but I dont think the threat of McCarron throwing the ball is enough to help the Bengals move the chains too much in this game. Denvers warts along their offensive line will be exposed by the Bengals defense in turn, which gives this game the look and feel of a defensive battle. If the point spread were to drop the hook to minus -3, Id consider a wager on the better defense (Denver) to win it with a defensive score. But in the meantime, Ill put a small wager these two stay under the total of 41 too.
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