Bengals, Broncos meet in showdown of 7-6 squads
The NFL moving to a 17-game season has helped teams stay in the playoff race a little longer. It also helps when the league is packed so tightly without one team standing out more than any other.
The playoff picture will begin to clear up in the coming weeks, but for Denver and Cincinnati, it will be more immediate. The teams meet Sunday, with the winner solidifying its hold on a playoff spot and the loser needing a late-season run to stay alive.
The Broncos (7-6) and Bengals (7-6) are two of the five AFC teams to hold those records after 14 weeks of football. Cincinnati is in a better position within the AFC North, sitting one game back of the Baltimore Ravens despite losing its last two games.
The Bengals are coming off two straight disappointing home losses, the last one in overtime when San Francisco scored a touchdown following a Cincinnati field goal.
The Bengals have a tough finish to the season with all four opponents holding winning records while players are nursing minor injuries. Quarterback Joe Burrow didn’t practice Wednesday, and the injury report lists a right finger injury, but it shouldn’t prevent him from playing.
“It’s good; good enough,” Burrow told reporters on Wednesday. “Good enough to play.”
Several other players didn’t practice Wednesday but the only one who is in danger of not taking the field in Denver on Sunday is offensive tackle Riley Reiff, who is dealing with an ankle injury. Clark Harris, Trey Hill and Trey Hopkins didn’t practice due to illness.
Defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who dealt with back spasms last Sunday, didn’t practice Wednesday but has not been ruled out for Sunday.
The Broncos have bounced back from a four-game losing streak to put themselves in the hunt for their first playoff spot since winning Super Bowl 50 six seasons ago.
Several Denver players sat out practice, but coach Vic Fangio didn’t sound worried about their statuses for Sunday. One who is questionable is Dre’Mont Jones, who is dealing with a foot injury.
“If we had to list him today, I’d say he was questionable, and it’s truly 50-50,” Fangio said Wednesday.
Wide receiver Tim Patrick hurt his finger in the win over Detroit last week but was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.
The Broncos’ recent surge has come with a more effective running game that has developed into a two-headed beast. Javonte Williams leads the team with 743 rushing yards in 13 games and Melvin Gordon III is right behind with 716 in 12 games.
Gordon’s one-game absence seemed to refill his tank. He has put together back-to-back strong outings. Fangio said using both could help keep the running backs fresh for the stretch run.
“I think so. Obviously, Javonte had a bunch of touches the week before,” he said. “Melvin came back this week. Melvin was running (well), so we left him in there. He got more than Javonte did, which probably — coming off of the previous game now — allows us to have good freedom going into this game.”
It also takes pressure off quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has thrown just 43 passes in Denver’s last two wins.
–Field Level Media