The National Football League doesn’t schedule Monday night games in Week 17 so no team is at a disadvantage for a playoff spot or on short rest for the following week’s postseason. Thus this week’s
“Monday Night Football” matchup is the conclusion for the 2015 season and it’s probably the best MNF game of the year: Cincinnati at Denver, with the AFC’s potential No. 2 seed on the line. The Broncos are 3.5-point favorites with a total of 40.5.
BENGALS START MCCARRON AGAIN
Cincinnati (11-3) can clinch the AFC North Division and at worst the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a victory. But the Bengals will be going with backup quarterback A.J. McCarron for the second week in a row. In Week 15 at San Francisco, McCarron made his first NFL start for an injured Andy Dalton and played pretty well, going 15-for-21 for 192 yards and a touchdown in a 24-14 win. He was the first quarterback from the University of Alabama to start and win an NFL game since 1987. McCarron will see a far superior defense this week in the Broncos’ No. 1 unit.
Denver (10-4) can clinch a playoff spot in Week 15 with a win and a loss by either Pittsburgh (at Baltimore, which is not likely) or the New York Jets (vs. New England, which is likely). Denver will clinch the AFC West Division title with a victory over Cincinnati and a loss by Kansas City. But the Chiefs aren’t likely to lose at home against Cleveland. Kansas City still has a shot at the AFC West title.
OSWEILER THE GUY FOR DENVER?
The Broncos also will be starting their backup quarterback, Brock Osweiler. At least that’s the plan as of this writing. It’s not clear if Peyton Manning is even healthy enough to return from his foot injury as he again didn’t dress for Week 15. He has been inactive for the last five weeks, with rookie Trevor Siemian serving as Osweiler’s backup. Denver has lost consecutive games under Osweiler, who fell to 3-2 as a starter after a 34-27 loss to the Steelers last week. Osweiler played terrific in the first half when he threw three touchdown passes and rushed for another as the Broncos led 27-13. But he was terrible in the second half as Denver was shut out after halftime for the second consecutive week.
The Broncos are the No. 1 defense in the NFL, allowing just 279.9 total yards per game. They are also No. 1 against both the run (79.9) and the pass (200.0). They haven’t haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since week 10 and have allowed just 50 yards on the ground combined in the last two weeks.
It’s the second straight season these teams meet in Week 16 on a Monday. Last year in rainy Cincinnati, the Bengals won 37-28 as Manning was intercepted four times, one returned by Dre Kirkpatrick for a touchdown. Manning had rallied the Broncos to three touchdowns in the third quarter and a lead at one points. Manning had been 8-0 career against the Bengals with 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.