CINCINNATI – Jeff Driskel could beat Usain Bolt in a footrace down Pete Rose Way. Gino Atkins could win a strongman competition by throwing a keg over the Roebling Suspension Bridge.
I don’t care.
If the Broncos are a good team – and they have posted ample evidence the past two week that they are – they must beat the Bengals. Cincinnati is terrible right now. Losers of five of their last six games, the Bengals are starting a backup quarterback with minimal experience. Their defense ranks last or near the basement in every meaningful category.
For the playoffs to remain in the conversation, the Broncos need to silence the Bengals. No excuses. My Denver7 keys to a Broncos victory:
Feed him more
Phillip Lindsay represents the Broncos’ best offensive player. His 780 rushing yards are the most through 11 games by an undrafted rookie. The only thing limiting Lindsay’s effectiveness is his usage. It’s time to get him the ball more. He needs at least 23 touches – 18 rushing attempts and five targets in the passing game.
Open and shut case
The Bengals defense shows no discernible strength. This offers an opportunity for the Broncos to start fast, stay strong and take pressure off the defense. Quarterback Case Keenum has played well over the last four games, delivering five touchdowns and one pick. Use play-action early for a long soul-snatching touchdown strike to Emmanuel Sanders.
Tight end Matt LaCosse admitted he hasn’t had this type of opportunity for playing time since high school. With Jeff Heuerman out, LaCosse needs to continue to ascend, especially in the red zone. He is a vicious runner with a sense of humor. LaCosse wears a huge headband because of his receding hairline. He diverts attention from his hair with a first-team All-Pro mustache.
Play for Domata
Nose tackle Domata Peko is the most positive player I have ever covered. His energy remains contagious. Teammates love him. And make no mistake, they want to win for him Sunday as he returns to Cincinnati. Here’s how beloved Peko was during his 11-year run in Cincinnati. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict told Peko this week not to worry about securing tickets for his family, that they were welcome to watch the game from his suite.
Von on the loose
All-Pro Von Miller netted a sack against the Steelers upon further review, but it was not a great game for the star. With Driskel making his first start, Von, Bradley Chubb and Shane Ray need to cause havoc against an injury-ravaged offensive line.
Third and long
The Broncos defense allowed 1,006 yards over the past two games – and won both. That’s not sustainable. The Chargers and Steelers went 14 of 29 on third down conversions. The Broncos survived because of their takeaways – they have 18 this season compared to 17 all of last season. However, they need to get off the field to give the offense more opportunities against a porous Bengals defense.
Set the alarm
Broncos fans cringe at early start times. They have not been kind to the Broncos since Peyton Manning retired. The Broncos lost to the Ravens and Jets in a similar window this season. They are playing much better now. Time to show they can handle a taste of success with strong complementary football from the start.
Renck prediction: Broncos 27, Bengals 21