Denver Broncos vs Cincinnati Bengals: DEN -3 (Pinnacle)
MarketsHere is another game that has offered us favorable line movement. The look ahead line had the Broncos as -4 favorites, so why do we have the option to take -3 right now? I'm not really concerned about what the underdog records say this year, if the books want to give us a favorable spread around a key number, I'll take it. Truthfully, I'll be surprised if this doesn't come off the three entirely at some point.
The Cure of the Bye?The Bengals made it very clear to the fans and the media that the coming games are going to determine what their team is made of. I'm here to tell them that they don't need to bother with the innuendo because we already know what the identity of this team is.
The Bengals went into the bye as one of the worst teams on third down and in the red zone - on both sides of the ball. The scary thing for Bengals fans is they put up these numbers against a fairly soft schedule.
It's great to have a guy like Andy Dalton showing marked improvement in his second season and the future is bright with someone like A.J. Green emerging as one of the best on the outside, but they can only do so much. In fact, Dalton has thrown an interception in every single game of the year, and 10 overall.
I find it hard to believe they are suddenly going to find some magic elixir to cure their issues in the critical spots. Nate Clements was moved to safety and Dre Kirkpatrick should make his season debut as a rookie, but as far as I'm concerned that doesn't solve anything.
The lone bright spot on defense for the Bengals is their defensive line. This could give them a competitive advantage in the hopes of slowing down Peyton Manning, but without adequate coverage on the back end, this unit is in trouble. Adding insult to injury is their inability to slow down opposing running backs.
I think we'll get a lot of the same from this team despite the extra week off.
Sign of Things to Come?The smack-down that the Broncos laid on the Saints is the kind of performance many of us have been waiting for all year. The most impressive aspect was their defense, but my main worry about that side of the ball was their woeful rankings on third down and in the red zone. I figured Drew Brees and company would have had a lot more success given how good they are in those moments.
Yet, it's hard to ignore what the potential of this Denver team is when they can avoid a slow start. The talent is certainly there on both sides of the ball, and Peyton has only thrown one interception since that bizarre game against the Falcons. What makes this run even more dynamic is how often they were trailing from behind in those games. You'd figure there would be more mistakes as they were forced into pass-only options. Peyton deserves special credit for his experience and smarts, even if he has losts some zip on the ball.
Most of the Broncos turnover problems have come from fumbles. I believe they've fumbled over 10 times and not recovered any of them. That is some severe negative variance, so I'm not worried about that going forward.
Bottom LineThis doesn't mean I'm calling for a blowout. The Bengals should have a good effort here with the extra week to prepare, and they do have the horses up front to make Peyton uncomfortable, but it's pretty clear that these teams are polar opposites in the big moments. I'll lay the points and trust the team that performs the best when things are on the line.
NFL Pick: DEN -3.
The rest of my Week 9 NFL picks.