Monday Night Football Picks: Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos Odds
by Alan Matthews - 12/24/2015
It hasn't been a very good season of "Monday Night Football" in terms of matchups featuring two good teams at once. But there have been some crazy finishes and it seems like nearly every MNF game came down to the final possession. Let's hope that continues in this week's MNF finale in probably the best on-paper matchup of the year: Cincinnati at Denver.
(There are no MNF games scheduled in Week 17 so teams aren't at an advantage/ disadvantage to clinch a playoff spot or on a short week for a playoff opener. The NFL wants as many Week 17 Sunday games to matter as possible and starts all games that are intertwined for playoff spots at the same time if possible; one game is flexed to Sunday night. That said, there is talk the playoffs might expand by one team in each conference next season and there could be a first-round MNF playoff game.)
Here are the playoffs scenarios for the Bengals and Broncos. Some include ties but I'm not going to bother with that unlikelihood.
Cincinnati (11-3): Bengals are in the playoffs and clinch the AFC North with a win or Pittsburgh loss in Baltimore (that's not happening). They clinch at worst the No. 2 seed with a win. Cincinnati still has a shot at the top seed, sitting one game behind New England. The Pats would wrap that up Sunday with a win at the Jets. The Bengals could still cough up the North with two loses and two Steelers wins. But Cincinnati should win next week vs. Baltimore.
Denver (10-4): Broncos clinch a playoff spot with a win plus Jets loss OR with a win and Steelers loss. Denver clinches a fifth straight AFC West crown with a win and Chiefs loss at home to Cleveland (not happening). Denver isn't out of the running for the top seed but would have to win out and have the Patriots lose out. In that scenario, Denver would have head-to-head wins over the Bengals and Patriots. It's also possible that Denver misses the playoffs entirely even by splitting its final two games and depending on what the Chiefs, Steelers and Jets do. The Broncos will be huge favorites next week at home vs. San Diego.
At Bovada, Cincinnati is +800 to win the AFC and -2000 to take the AFC North. Denver is +650 to win the AFC and -300 for the division.
Bengals at Broncos Betting Story Lines
You won't often see two Super Bowl contenders starting backup quarterbacks against one another this late in the season and with so much on the line, but that will be the case Monday.
For the Bengals, it will be A.J. McCarron for the second straight week. The former two-time national champion at Alabama played pretty well in his first NFL start in Week 15 in San Francisco in leading a 24-14 win. He was 15-for-21 for 192 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers, a very nice rating of 115.6. It was the first NFL win for a starting quarterback from the University of Alabama since 1987. The Bengals clearly altered their game-plan, however, as they ran the ball 36 times despite gaining only 68 yards. Starter Andy Dalton already has been ruled out with his broken thumb and it's not expected he will play Week 17, either. The Bengals could really use a playoff bye week to give Dalton more time to recover.
McCarron won't have star tight end Tyler Eifert again this week as he remains in the NFL's concussion protocol. It's likely he won't play until the playoffs as well. Eifert was named to the Pro Bowl this week alongside receiver A.J. Green. Speaking of injuries, Green is dealing with a back problem but should be in there. The Bengals have five Pro Bowl selections for the first time since 2005. If that matters to you. It shouldn't.
The Broncos will go with Brock Osweiler again this week with Peyton Manning still not ready off his foot injury. Manning will be inactive again, meaning rookie Trevor Siemian, who wasn't even very good in college at Northwestern, would play if Osweiler gets hurt Monday. Denver is 3-2 with Osweiler as a starter, but the Broncos have lost two straight and failed to score a second-half point in three games in a row. Last week, Osweiler looked like Manning in his prime in leading the Broncos to a 27-13 halftime lead in Pittsburgh, but then Osweiler looked like Tim Tebow in the second half as Pittsburgh rallied for a 34-27 win. Osweiler completed just 7-for26 passes for 84 yards after halftime, including an interception that set up the winning score.
Does a Week 16 MNF matchup between these two sound familiar? It should. Last year in Cincinnati, the Bengals won 37-28 on a very rainy night to clinch a playoff spot. Manning was intercepted four times, one returned by Dre Kirkpatrick for a touchdown to clinch it. Manning had been 8-0 career against the Bengals with 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. Jeremy Hill was Cincinnati's best offensive player that night, rushing 22 times for 147 yards and a touchdown.
Bengals at Broncos Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes, Denver is a 3.5-point favorite (-105) with a total of 40.5. On the moneyline, the Broncos are -185 and Bengals +160. On the alternate lines, the Broncos are -3 (-130) and -4 (+103). Cincinnati is 11-2-1 against the spread (7-0 on road) and 7-7 "over/under" (4-3 on road). Denver is 8-6 ATS (3-3 at home) and 5-8-1 O/U (1-4-1 at home).
The Bengals are 8-2-1 ATS in their past 11 following a win. They are 4-1 ATS in their past five vs. teams with a winning record. Denver is 4-1 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning record. The Broncos are 11-3 ATS in their past 14 after a loss. The under is 6-2 in Cincinnati's past eight. The under is 7-3 in Denver's past 10 in December.
Bengals at Broncos Betting Prediction
Kudos to McCarron for beating the Niners, but they stink. Denver has the No. 1 defense in the NFL, allowing just 279.9 total yards per game. The Broncos are also No. 1 against both the run (79.9) and the pass (200.0). I expect McCarron to have a rough night. It's going to be quite cold in Denver on Monday with possible snow showers. That should keep the scoring down. Take Denver (at -3 or wait until 2.5) and the under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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