The Denver Broncos look to secure their first win of the regular season when they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon. The Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns last week 27-17. The last time these two teams met in 2009, an immaculate reception was made when Kyle Orton heaved a ball intended for Brandon Marshall was tipped by a Bengals player, and caught by Brandon Stokley who made his way to the endzone to take a 13-7 victory as regulation wound down. The Broncos have beat the Bengals 8 times in a row at home. The Broncos don’t want to have to rely on luck this time. They want/need to come out strong on both sides of the ball after being embarrassed on a national stage.
Broncos: It’s all about converting in the red zone for the Broncos. The offense only put up 13 points against the Raiders, as one touchdown was the result of Eric Decker’s 90-yard punt return. Kyle Orton had 304 passing yards, but the team as a whole had just 38 rushing yards. The Bengals held a Peyton Hillis-led Browns team to just 83 yards (Hillis was held to 57 yards on 17 carries). With the possibility of Knowshon Moreno sitting this one out, the team may move practice squad player Jeremiah Johnson up to help Willis McGahee with carries. Brandon Lloyd has not practiced all week with a strained groin.
Bengals: Andy Dalton was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski (Sound familiar? Former Raider backup) in the second half of Sunday’s game. Dalton hurt his wrist and didn’t throw any passes in practice until Thursday. Head coach Marvin Lewis said that Dalton will play on Sunday against the Broncos. In his NFL debut, Dalton went 10-for-15 for 81 yards and 1 TD. Not bad for just one half of play. The Bengals leading receiver was Jermaine Gresham and he had 6 catches for 58 yards and 1 TD. Cedric Benson broke out for 121 yards rushing on 25 carries and 1 TD.
Broncos: The team’s leading tackler is out (D.J. Williams), Elvis Dumervil will sit this week out, and Champ Bailey is questionable at best. Those are some big hits for this Broncos defense who gave up 190 yards on the ground to the Raiders. If Cedric Benson called Darren McFadden, we’re in trouble. Putting pressure on the rookie QB will be imperative since he’s not quite used to NFL speed. If the defense can make the pocket collapse, Dalton is more likely to commit those nice rookie mistakes that defenses love to see. In week one, Brian Dawkins was the team’s leading tackler. In week two, he will need to be the defense’s on the field leader.
Bengals: The Bengals don’t have the size that the Raiders did up front, but they do have a well-rounded defensive line. To be able to hold Hillis to a non-embarrassing total says a lot. The team sacked Colt McCoy twice and intercepted him once. No one expected the Bengals to beat the Browns, but they did it thanks in large part to their defense. Cincy had one quarter of defensive lapse where the Browns scored 14 points, but then held them to just 3 second half points.
Broncos: Eric Decker recorded the third longest punt return for a TD in team history last week. Tiger eyes will be open every time he is on the field. Matt Prater went 2-for-3 on field goals with a long of 56 yards. Kickoff/punt coverage are of utmost importance since the Broncos are ailing on defense and need the Bengals offense to work the entire field.
Bengals: Mike Nugent handles kicking duties for the Bengals while Kevin Huber handles the punting job. Brandon Tate is the team’s return man and he had a long of 35 yards on a kick return last week.
Broncos: John Fox has emphasized to his team that they’re not the only 0-1 team out there. There are 16 other teams in the same boat, and just because the team came out of the gates slow doesn’t mean that they have to have a bad race. Preparing for the week without many of his stars on the field doesn’t make a difference to Fox’s “next man up” philosophy.
Bengals: Marvin Lewis is in his 9th season as head coach for the Bengals. Like Fox, the defensive-mined Lewis is focused on winning through good defense and controlling the clock with a solid running game. He emphasizes starting fast as was seen when the Bengals took a 13-0 lead over the Browns last week by the beginning of the second quarter. Despite only doing better than .500 in two of his eight season, Lewis has kept his job in Cincy this long for a reason. He’s a well-liked coach and the front office believes that with the right roster, he can take this team far.
Prediction: Broncos – 21 Bengals – 17.