Monday Night Football Predictions: Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals Odds & Picks
by Alan Matthews - 12/19/2014
There have been a lot of duds on "Monday Night Football" this season, but thankfully ESPN has saved the best for last with a potential AFC Playoff preview between the Broncos and Bengals in the Monday finale of 2014. It's a very important game to both division leaders.
Denver (11-3) already has locked down the AFC West for a fourth straight season and is aiming to get the No. 1 overall seed again. It needs New England to lose once. The Pats are favored on Sunday at the Jets and will be next week at home vs. Buffalo, although the Bills are capable of an upset the way they are playing. The Broncos will clinch no worse than a No. 2 seed with a victory. They could with a tie and Colts loss or tie as well.
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Cincinnati (9-4-1) leads the AFC North but hasn't clinched a playoff spot and could miss out losing Monday and then on a short week next Sunday at Pittsburgh. For example, those three 8-6 teams could pass Cincinnati with two wins each (that tie could prove costly for Cincy). The Bengals do clinch a playoff spot with a win vs. Denver, however. They also would if the Chiefs, Chargers and Bills lose this week. I could easily see the Chargers falling at the Niners and the Chiefs at the Steelers. Don't expect the Bills to fall into a trap at the Raiders. Cincinnati would clinch the division with a win and losses by Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Don't see the Ravens losing in Houston. Bovada lists Cincinnati at -200 to make the postseason and +160 to miss out.
Broncos at Bengals Betting Story Lines
This is one of those big games where I simply don't trust Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton. We all know he's 0-3 in his career in the playoffs with really bad numbers. Did you also know he's 2-6 in his career in prime-time regular-season games? Dalton had lousy numbers in last week's 30-0 shutout of Cleveland, going 14 of 24 for 117 yards and a pick I don't worry about that because the Bengals were gashing the Browns with the running game. But Dalton was terrible in a Thursday night loss to Cleveland and in a blowout loss in Indianapolis (not prime time) earlier this year. I don't know which guy shows up here.
The Bengals will want to pound the ball with their 1-2 punch of Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard, but Denver ranks No. 2 against the run. Hill has become a fantasy superstar and is in the Rookie of the Year conversation, although he got too late of a start to win it. He has supplanted Bernard as the featured back and had 148 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries last week. It was his third game with at least 148 yards. Bernard was solid, carrying 15 times for 79 yards and three passes for 24. He's a better receiver than Hill. One potential positive for the Cincinnati running game is that Broncos starting linebackers Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall were hurt last week and are out. Trevathan is done for the year. Cincinnati has rushed for 1,044 yards since Week 9, No. 2 in the NFL. In the first eight weeks, the team had 780 yards, which was 21st.
Peyton Manning certainly has no problems with big games, and he has never lost to the Bengals in eight career games, most of those coming with the Colts. Manning has 10 touchdowns and no picks in three December starts vs. Cincinnati. He last faced Cincinnati in 2012 and threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally the Broncos from a 20-17 deficit.
The Broncos have shifted from a pass-happy team to a running one behind emerging star C.J. Anderson. In Denver's four-game winning streak, he is averaging 27.3 carries and 119.5 yards with five total touchdowns. Manning has gone exactly 14-for-20 the past two games with just one touchdown and two picks. He did play through an illness in last Sunday's 22-10 win against the Chargers.
You don't think of Denver as a great defensive team, but it has been much better this year than last. The Broncos have held teams to 17 points or fewer seven times, including the past three. It is No. 4 in total defense and No. 7 in sacks (38.0). Von Miller is tied for fifth with 13 sacks, and new addition DeMarcus Ware has 10.
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals NFL Monday Night Football Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Denver is a 3.5-point favorite (+105) with alternate lines of 4.5 (+120), 4 (+133), 3 (-120) and 2.5 (-145). The Broncos are -170 on the moneyline and Bengals +150. The total is 47.5 points. Denver is 7-7 against the spread (4-3 on the road) and 8-6 "over/under" (3-4 on road). Cincinnati is 7-6-1 ATS (3-3-1 at home) and 5-9 O/U (4-3 at home).
Denver is 9-2 ATS in its past 11 December games. The Broncos have covered just once in their past six Monday games. Cincinnati is 6-0 ATS in its past six at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The Bengals have covered only one of their past six after a win. The under is 4-0 in Denver's past four after a win. The under is 5-1 in the Bengals' past six games. The road team has covered the past four meetings in this series.
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals Expert Picks and Betting Predictions
Manning shines on Monday night, going 13-4 in his career as a starter. He has 36 TD passes and 16 interceptions in those games. Cincinnati was dominant at home last year (before the wild-card loss) but hasn't been great there this year. The Bengals were blasted at home by Pittsburgh and Cleveland and allowed 37 points to Carolina in a tie at Paul Brown Stadium. All three of Denver's losses have come on the road, but it has won the past two away from home.
In one regard, I would hold off on betting this game until after Patriots-Jets on Sunday. If New York pulls the upset, that really amps up the motivation level for Denver. Because even with a loss here, the Broncos are nearly a lock to be the No. 2 seed. But if the Pats lose, the door is open. The Bengals' motivation also could change a bit depending on Sunday's results. But if having to pick now, I'd take Denver (4-0 at night this year) and give the 2.5 points. Go under the total as it could be sloppy, with the Monday night forecast 45 degrees and a 60 percent chance of rain.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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