Three Keys to Victory for the Broncos vs. Bengals
With the second half the NFL season officially upon us, each game becomes more and more critical for teams vying to get into the postseason.
The Broncos have won two straight and sit atop the AFC West with a 4-3 record. Meanwhile, the Bengals have lost three straight and desperately need a victory to try and keep up in the AFC North.
With Peyton Manning at the helm, the Broncos bring in the league's third best offense in total yards with over 405 per game. They are also fourth in the league in scoring with over 29 per game.
The offensive firepower the Broncos bring could present some problems for the Bengals as they rank in the bottom third of the league in points allowed at 26.7.
Even with that, here are the Broncos three keys to victory:
1. Don't Eat Popcorn
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The Broncos need to stop acting like T.O., meaning they need to stop eating popcorn before the game.
They have lost a fumble in 12 straight games, which is the longest streak in the NFL since the Arizona Cardinals lost one in 18 consecutive games in 1996-97.
That statistic is even stranger as the Broncos have fumbled 11 times and have only recovered one of those fumbles.
Normally a fumble is a 50/50 type of play, but not for the Broncos.
Here's the memo: Don't eat popcorn during pregame rituals. The butter is ridiculously hard to get off your hands and gloves.
2. Limit A.J. Green
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A.J. Green has been one of the most productive wide receivers since he was the fourth pick in last year's NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
He has proven that he can make big plays, plays that impact the game and get in the end zone.
Green this year ranks in the Top 10 of receivers with 44 catches for 636 yards and a league-high seven touchdowns.
All-Pro and future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey will be responsible for making sure Green doesn't get loose and limiting him to minimal gains.
Green will get his yards and catches, but it's the touchdowns and big-play potential (Green has seven catches of 20 or more yards and three over 40 yards) that need to be limited.
If Bailey and the combination of defensive backs for the Broncos can keep Green in check, it'll go a long way in a Broncos victory.
3. Keep the Run Game Going
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Last week, the Broncos had their best rushing performance of the year as they racked up 225 yards against the New Orleans Saints.
Willis McGahee had 122 yards and a touchdown and rookie Ronnie HIllman added 86 more yards.
It's great if McGahee and Hillman can continue to create the yards that they have. That game they averaged 5.5 yards per touch, but it's even more important to continue to just give the ball to one of the backs.
Peyton Manning is most effective when he can use play-action and allow his receivers to get that extra step. There's where the run game comes in.
The Broncos will have a chance to equal the totals of last week's game as the Bengals bring in the 22nd-ranked rush defense, giving up 124 yards per game.
That doesn't sit well for the Bengals as Manning can audible to a run like he has been and get five-plus yards a pop.
But even if the Broncos only rush for 70 yards, as long as the carries are there, it'll be a benefit for the offense.
Prediction: 34-17 Broncos