Optimistic Broncos visit sinking Bengals
They can give their hopes a boost when they visit the Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) on Sunday. Denver (5-6) is through the toughest part of its schedule and has a chance at a strong finish coming off wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Denver is one game back of the AFC's second wild-card position, and its schedule eases up significantly. Through the first 12 weeks, Broncos opponents had a 69-50-1 record, which translates into the toughest schedule in the league to this point. They Broncos play one team with a winning record the rest of the way, the Chargers at home in the finale, while the rest of their opponents' combined are 13-30-1.
"I feel like we're headed in the right direction where we need to go to get the job done," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said after Denver's 24-17 win over Pittsburgh last Sunday. "So far, it's shown. But right now, we're coming off two wins. We're not going to get ahead of ourselves. We are going to keep working, keep our head down, and the motto has to continue to be, '1-0, one game at a time.' You go and try and get the job done."
The Bengals were 4-1 at one point before they began struggling. Quarterback Andy Dalton is done for the season with a right thumb injury, and third-year backup Jeff Driskel will start against Denver. His backup is Tom Savage, who was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers this week.
Driskel is going to get a key weapon back with the return of A.J. Green from a toe injury that kept him out of the past three games.
Cincinnati, like Denver, is not out of the playoff picture yet, but its chances took a hit with Dalton going down for the season. That didn't deter Green from coming back.
"I don't care what our record was, I was coming back to play again," he said. "When you sit out, everything is not a given, and it puts other things in perspective and don't take anything for granted. I don't care if we were 0-15 and I have to play the last game of the season I would just be happy to be back and do whatever it takes to help this team win."
The Broncos have been hit hard by injuries at tight end. Jeff Heuerman was placed on injured reserve after sustaining a bruised lung and fractured ribs against Pittsburgh, and Jake Butt was lost to an ACL tear in September.
That leaves Matt LaCosse, in his third year out of Illinois, second-year player Brian Parker and Temarrick Hemingway, who was signed off the practice squad on Monday.
LaCosse should get a bulk of the snaps in Cincinnati, with Parker also seeing action.
Denver's offense has a chance to put up big numbers against the worst defense in terms of yards. Cincinnati allows 439.6 yards overall and 147.5 yards rushing per game, which ranks next to last in the NFL.
Bengals left tackle Cordy Glenn (back) is doubtful after missing practice all week, and backup Jake Fisher (back) landed on IR earlier this week. Cincinnati brought back Andre Smith, now in his third stint with the team, for depth at tackle.
--Field Level Media
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