Fletcher Page, Cincinnati Enquirer Published 12:42 p.m. ET Nov. 30, 2018

Bengals beat writers Fletcher Page and Paul Dehner Jr. preview the team's Week 13 game against the Denver Broncos.


The Cincinnati Bengals host the Denver Broncos on Sunday at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

Cincinnati enters 5-6, coming off a 35-20 to the Cleveland Browns. The Broncos are 5-6 after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-17 on Sunday.

Here's a look at three keys to Sunday's game and our predictions:
Three Keys

Snuff out big plays: The Broncos have more home-run threats than perhaps many outside of Denver realize. Their offense ranks sixth (tied with the Bengals) with 52 plays of 20-plus yards gained. Of those, 12 different Broncos account for the 52 such plays, led by wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton with a combined 26. Running back Phillip Lindsey has seven runs of 20 yards or more, creating an offensive capable of scoring on any given play on the ground or through the air. Stopping teams hasn't been something the Bengals defense has proven it can do, a problem enhanced by poor tackling and an inconsistent pass rush.

Play to the new guy's strengths: Jeff Driskel isn't Andy Dalton. And that's OK. The Bengals may not have the experience and voice Dalton provides, but Driskel provides speed and strength as a runner in his first career start at quarterback. That should help against the Broncos prolific pass-rushing tandem Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, especially considering the Bengals expected juggle at left tackle due to injuries.

Win special teams: Of course, winning the turnover margin, getting stops on third down and converting in the red zone are among the football-obvious things the Bengals need to do. But how about not committing penalties on punts? Making field goals? Flipping field position with a long punt return? For a team reeling, with an offense in flux and a defense amid crisis, winning a few of finer points on special teams could create confidence or stave off negativity in a game against an opponent equally in need of a win to keep goals alive.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jeff Driskel (6) runs out of bounds in the fourth quarter of an NFL Week 12 football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jeff Driskel (6) runs out of bounds in the fourth quarter of an NFL Week 12 football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. (Photo: Kareem Elgazzar)
Predictions

Paul Dehner Jr.

Both teams may enter this game at 5-6 but they couldn’t be more different on where they stand in their seasons. The Broncos are riding a wave of momentum coming off back-to-back wins against the LA Chargers and Pittsburgh. They ran through a brutal early-season schedule and a number of close losses dug a hole. They have every reason to believe they will come to Paul Brown Stadium and keep that roll going.

Then there’s the Bengals. Losers of five of six, embarrassed by the Browns at home, just lost Dalton for the season and on the brink of official elimination. This has elevated from snowball to avalanche in a hurry. And now offensive line injuries start to set in when Jake Fisher became the 14th player to go on IR this year and Cordy Glenn (back) still out. Not a great time to miss tackles when Miller and Chubb come to town.

The Bengals defense hasn’t stopped the run all year and Lindsay has been as dynamic as anyone in football. Hard to see this historically awful defense finding itself this week, even if Nick Vigil is able to return. This feels like a day when the misery continues on this ugly turn in the season.

Prediction: Broncos 24, Bengals 13
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) walks the sideline near the end of the third quarter of the NFL Week 7 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. The Bengals lost 45-10, falling to 4-3 on the season.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) walks the sideline near the end of the third quarter of the NFL Week 7 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. The Bengals lost 45-10, falling to 4-3 on the season. (Photo: Sam Greene)

Fletcher Page

The Broncos are surging, improving as the season wears on, scratching and clawing forward to keep up in the AFC playoff race.

The Bengals are not.

It looks like A.J. Green and Vigil will return Sunday after weeks out due to injury. But that boost has been negated by Dalton's exit and an offensive line shuffle of depressing proportion. It's a good thing Driskel is the fastest and perhaps most athletic quarterback in the league.

Miller and Chubb are going to provide reasons for Driskel to showcase all of his ability. Maybe Joe Mixon can get rolling to help out, but it's hard to find reasons to forecast this Bengals offense, severely altered from what it was supposed to be by injuries, keeping up with the points opposing teams should continue to put up against the Cincinnati defense.

The Broncos' postseason bid will remain alive. The Bengals will have stopped dreaming.

Prediction: Broncos 31, Bengals 17

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