All things considered, this is where both teams probably should have expected to be. Hard to believe in hindsight that the Bengals had a playoff win in Pittsburgh in their hands just 22 months ago — but it seems like they’ve replayed the last two minutes of that game on an endless loop ever since. The Broncos don’t have a quarterback, period, and that’s infecting everything else. Only for viewers with strong stomachs.
The Bengals won the battle of “O”-hio in Week 4 and have managed to go 4-3 since their 0-3 start. They’re four wins against teams that have proven to be fairly dreadful (Browns, Bills, Colts, Broncos), but they all count, and so does this rematch with the Browns. Oddly, this is one of the three games remaining that give the Browns a decent chance to avoid 0-16 (also the Packers at home, and at Chicago).
Eli Manning and that offense is hideous to watch, but even they ought to be able to pick apart the 49ers’ wretched defense. Also, the 49ers don’t appear to be able to protect their quarterback with anything short of a court order.
Aaron Rodgers, who wrecked them on a Thursday night earlier this season, isn’t playing this week. Neither is Mike Glennon, who also wrecked the Bears that night before he was benched the next week. Two defensive touchdowns per week isn’t a sound strategy, but defense plus cutting down turnovers has worked for Chicago lately.
Denver has another special teams breakdown. The Broncos pick up a first down via a defensive holding penalty, but can’t pick up another. Riley Dixon enters and his punt is blocked. He falls on it and New England takes over on the Denver 30.