Just a few weeks ago, the Denver Broncos looked like a potentially favorable matchup for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Much has changed in the last two games.
The Broncos will be riding an impressive two-game win streak into Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday after collecting back-to-back victories over the eight-win Los Angeles Chargers and the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers. Denver beat the Steelers 24-17 on Sunday to end Pittsburgh’s six-game win streak.
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Meanwhile, the Bengals are trying to turn things around after suffering their fifth loss in six games, but Denver won’t make things easy on new starting quarterback Jeff Driskel. The Broncos have the eighth-best pass rush in the league with 33 sacks, including 10.5 from Von Miller — which is the fifth most in the NFL this season — and they have 12 interceptions (only three teams have more).
Fortunately for Driskel, Denver’s “No Fly Zone” pass defense isn’t what it was three years ago when it spearheaded an unlikely championship run by allowing only one touchdown pass in the playoffs despite facing the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Cam Newton.
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The Broncos still were in the top five for average yards allowed (290) just a season ago, but they’ve allowed 20 touchdowns through the air this year and are among the bottom half in the league in most defensive categories. Denver is 13th in scoring defense (22.9 points per game) but 25th in total defense (389.3), 26th in pass defense (266.2) and 24th in rush defense (123.1). Roethlisberger threw for 462 yards on Sunday.
Cornerback Chris Harris leads the team with three interceptions, and inside linebacker Todd Davis leads with 59 solo tackles. Bradley Chubb adds nine sacks.
Offensively, Denver continues to improve. The Broncos rank 15th in total offense (366.1 yards per game), 19th in scoring offense (22.9), 10th in rushing (124.7) and 15th in passing (241.4).
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Case Keenum has completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns with 10 interceptions but hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 8. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders accounts for 849 yards receiving and four touchdowns, and Denver has a strong running game led by Phillip Lindsay, who is rushing for 780 yards and six touchdowns, and Royce Freeman, who adds 349 yards and five touchdowns.
Denver is 21-10 against Cincinnati but the teams have split games the past four years. The Bengals won 20-17 in Denver last year and lost 29-17 at home in 2016. The home team won the previous two meetings.
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Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was on the Bengals’ staff as defensive backs coach from 2014-15 … Broncos NT Domata Peko Sr. was a fourth-round draft pick (123rd overall) of the Bengals in 2006 and was with the team through the 2016 season … Bengals DE Kasim Edebali played for the Broncos in 2017 … Bengals DT Niles Scott was on the Broncos’ practice squad earlier this season … Broncos defensive line coach Bill Kollar played for the Bengals from 1974-76 … Broncos DE Derek Wolfe and CB Linden Stephens (practice squad) played at the University of Cincinnati … Broncos TE Jeff Heuerman and CB Bradley Roby both played at Ohio State University … Broncos TE Jake Butt (Reserve/Injured) is from Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington North High School) … Bengals DT Josh Tupou (Reserve/Injured) played at the University of Colorado … Broncos OLB Deiontrez Mount (Reserve/Injured) played at the University of Louisville … Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney coached for the Broncos from 2002-08 … Broncos wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni coached at Bowling Green State University from 2001-06, and at the University of Kentucky in 2011 … Broncos special teams coach Tom McMahon coached at the University of Louisville in 2006 … Broncos quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan coached at Ohio University in 2001.
AFC NORTH OUTLOOK
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1): Pittsburgh had a six-game win streak snapped with a 24-17 loss at Denver on Sunday. The Steelers host the L.A. Chargers on Sunday Night Football.
Baltimore Ravens (6-5): The Ravens won their second straight game, beating Oakland 34-17 on Sunday. They travel to play the Falcons on Sunday.
Cleveland Browns (4-6-1): Coming off its first road win since 2015 and first win over the Bengals since 2014, Cleveland will try for its third straight victory Sunday at Houston.