Cincinnati Bengals (7-6, 6-7 ATS) at Denver Broncos (7-6, 7-6), 4:05 p.m.
Brolley’s Bengals Stats and Trends
The Bengals are 4-1 ATS in their last five road games.
Cincy is 5-2 toward overs in its last seven games.
Joe Mixon saw a seven-week low 60% snap share after missing practice all of last week with an illness and with Samaje Perine getting more playing time with the Bengals in catch-up mode in the second half. He still logged 18+ carries for a fourth straight game, but he’s averaging just 3.0 YPC in the last two games. He had his nine-game run with at least one touchdown snapped last week — he scored 13 times in that span — and he hasn’t topped 10 receiving yards in each of his last four games. The Broncos are giving up 4.5 YPC but they haven’t allowed a rushing TD since D’Ernest Johnson scored against them in Week 7.
Joe Burrow threw for multiple TDs last week for the first time since Week 8. He opened the year with multiple TD passes in each of his first eight games, and it’s no coincidence that Ja’Marr Chase snapped out of his mini-funk against the 49ers. The Broncos had given up 19+ FP in three straight games in Weeks 9-12 before limiting Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff to a combined 399/1 passing.
Ja’Marr Chase snapped out of the little funk he’s been in since Week 8, hanging 5/77/2 receiving on eight targets against the 49ers. He had fallen below 54 yards in five straight games after topping 54 yards in each of his first seven contests. The Broncos are giving up the sixth-fewest receptions per game (11.4) to WRs, and Kalif Raymond is the only WR to score against them in the last three weeks.
Tee Higgins has reached 13+ FP in six of his last seven games and he’s been real hot in the last three weeks with 16+ FP and 114+ yards in three consecutive contests. The Broncos are giving up a healthy 13.3 YPR to WRs, but they’ve kept big-play WRs Tyreek Hill (2/22 receiving) and Mike Williams (4/39) in check in recent weeks.
Tyler Boyd reached double-digit FP with 4+ catches for the third time in his last four games last week, but he did it with just five targets against the 49ers. He owns an 18% target share in that span since their Week 10 bye after seeing just 14% of the targets in Weeks 5-9. Amon-Ra St. Brown posted 8/73 receiving in this matchup last week.
Brolley’s Broncos Stats and Trends
The Broncos are 10-3 toward unders this season, including a current 6-1 stretch toward unders.
The Broncos went right back to their backfield rotation with Melvin Gordon returning to the lineup last week. Gordon hung 24/111/2 rushing on half of the snaps while Javonte Williams finished with 16/83/2 scrimmage on the other half of the snaps, as the pair combined for 44.4 FP against the Lions. The Bengals stuffed Jeff Wilson (13/56 rushing) and the 49ers’ rushing attack last week, and they’re facing the third-fewest rushing attempts per game (17.9) from RBs.
Teddy Bridgewater has topped 17+ FP just once in his last seven games after doing it three times in his first six contests this season. He was asked to do little in a four-score victory over the Lions in Week 14, completing 18/25 passes for 179 yards (7.2 YPA) and two TDs for 15.2 FP. Teddy has cooled off with only five TD passes overall in his last six games, and he has one rushing TD in that span. The Bengals have given up 20+ FP to Jimmy Garoppolo (296/2 passing) and Justin Herbert (317/3) in consecutive games.
Jerry Jeudy is the only viable fantasy WR in Denver right now with Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick vanishing since he returned to the lineup. Jeudy hasn’t been anything special, though, as he hasn’t hit 13+ FP in each of his first six games back from his ankle injury. He’s at least seen 4+ catches in five of those contests after posting 5/47 receiving on six targets. Slot WR Jauan Jennings posted a career-best 3/46 receiving last week, and Keenan Allen scored two touchdowns in this matchup two weeks ago.
Noah Fant has hit double-digit FP just once since Week 6, and he’s seen exactly four targets in three straight games. Albert Okwuegbunam continues to be a thorn in the side of Fant after posting 5/41/1 receiving on a 56% snap share last week. The Bengals have given up 100+ yards and/or a touchdown to a tight end in five of their last six games.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 29.3 (24th)
Plays per game: 65.4 (12th)
Pass: 61.2% (15th) | Run: 38.8% (18th)
Pace: 31 (30th)
Plays per game: 60.6 (24th)
Pass: 55.4% (27th) | Run: 44.6% (6th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
The Bengals have lost four of their last 6 and started to struggle a little bit offensively in their last two games. They got stomped 41-22 by the Chargers in a wacky game two weeks ago and were down 20-6 in the middle of the third quarter last week before Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase worked their magic. Cincinnati has been living on thin margins all year with how slow they play offensively and have just taken advantage of some really bad defenses as of late, scoring 34 against the Lions, 41 vs. the Ravens, 31 vs. the Jets, 32 vs. the Raiders, and 41 vs. the Steelers.
Denver’s pace and subsequent play volume has cratered as of late as Teddy Bridgewater has devolved from a game manager into a future clipboard manager. Over the last eight weeks, the Broncos are dead last in pace (31.8 seconds) when leading and rank top-10 in run rate in close games and when they’re leading.
Overall, this is the third-slowest game of the week behind only Patriots-Colts and Ravens-Packers. We need the Bengals to push the scoring pace here for this game to have any chance to be high scoring. The Broncos run-heavy, slow paced offense has resulted in them hitting unders in six of their last 7 games.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
I’m not completely scared for Tee Higgins against ‘21 first-rounder Patrick Surtain II, but I cannot say the same for Tyler Boyd’s matchup. For those unaware or others that require a reminder:
The expectation is that Bryce Callahan will immediately be reinserted as the starting nickelback. Prior to his injury, he limited his coverage to 0.98 YPCS (seventh-fewest) and 0.19 FP/CS (fourth-fewest). And his footwork and glove-like coverage explodes my scouting brain.
Teddy Bridgewater’s underwhelming passing prowess has completely eliminated Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick from consideration. Perhaps, if the Bengals manage to build a considerable lead, Teddy will open things up. I will not be investing a dime in seeing that unfold.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Bengal WR Ja’Marr Chase high-end usage — which has remained consistent since the beginning of the year despite his mini-slump in terms of production — paid off with a big game last week, including having a potential third TD overturned by replay.
Here’s Scott Barrett from the XFP Report with more on Chase:
“Through the first 7 games of the season, Ja’Marr Chase averaged 20.9 FPG and 0.6 drops per game. In the 6 games since, Chase averages 13.2 FPG and 1.5 drops per game…. Over this span, 3 of Chase’s 9 drops have come in the end zone, and 4 have come on deep throws. Those drops were worth a minimum of 42.8 fantasy points (7.1 FPG) and a maximum of 107.4 fantasy points (17.9 FPG)… In other words, if Chase had the legendary hands of Larry Fitzgerald (zero drops), he’d be averaging somewhere between 20.3 and 31.1 FPG. Or, over the full season, 20.6 and 25.6 FPG.”
The mini-slump should not take away from just how incredible Chase’s rookie season has been. Chase now has over 1,000 yards on the season and his 79.8 YPG is fifth-most all-time among rookie WRs behind only Odell Beckham (108.8), Justin Jefferson (87.5), Anquan Boldin (86.1), and Randy Moss (82.1). Not bad company!
Even with Chase having a big game last week, Tee Higgins continued his stellar play as of late with 5/114 last week against the 49ers. He now has over 100 yards in three straight games. With the Broncos getting stud slot CB Bryce Callahan back this week, which is bad news for Tyler Boyd, but good for Chase and Higgins. It’s not a great draw for Joe Burrow and company, but Chase and Higgins are likely not benchable.
RB Joe Mixon’s streak of nine straight games with a touchdown came to an end last week, after he missed practice all week with an illness. Mixon has also been incredibly game-script dependent once again this year and is averaging 103.6 rushing yards and 20.6 fantasy points per game in wins and just 51.8 yards and 15.3 FP per game in losses. Mixon was out-snapped on passing downs last week by Samaje Perine (23 to 16), which could be a result of the illness that plagued him last week. Nonetheless, with the Bengals short underdogs (+2.5), that might indicate struggles for Mixon to get going this week. He’s still next to impossible to sit.
The Broncos’ entire offense is held back by some combination of QB Teddy Bridgewater and OC Pat Shurmur. Well, at least the passing game is.
The Broncos’ run game has been stellar, but of course after rookie RB Javonte Williams’s breakout with Melvin Gordon inactive in Week 13, Gordon got the start and played more snaps than Williams in Week 14. They both scored twice, and as I wrote last week, the reason Williams hasn’t run away with this backfield despite looking spectacular is because Gordon hasn’t let him.
The criticism of Gordon comes from Bronco fans who want to see more of Javonte, and fantasy players who know what kind of upside Javonte has. But the Broncos have no reason to pull Gordon off the field.
Vic Fangio on what he'd say to those who don't appreciate Melvin Gordon III:— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) December 15, 2021
"I don't know how anyone could underappreciate his ability. He's run the ball very well for us for two years. ... He's a damn good player."
Meanwhile, Javonte picked up a leg injury this week but is expected to play. Both are RB2s, but Javonte’s status must be watched.
Javonte Williams leg “kind of swelled up” so the Broncos are giving him the day off of practice today.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) December 16, 2021
Fangio expects him to play.
The passing game for the Broncos gets a boost this week if Bengal top CB Chidobe Awuzie can’t play (COVID), but I don’t know how anybody could start Courtland Sutton right now — Sutton has caught 8 balls for 79 yards over his last five games. Combined.