Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, December 21, 2014 at 4:00 PM
ESPN really lucked out here. Their final Monday Night telecast of the 2014 season features a possible playoff preview when the AFC West leading Denver Broncos visit the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals. There are a variety of ways these teams could meet in the playoffs. And, both are clearly on the short list, along with the New England Patriots, as serious Super Bowl contenders.
*Denver really hasn’t been in great form recently, particularly on the road. Even when they win and cover, they don’t look like themselves. When did they become a smash mouth team that runs all the time? (About the time most of Peyton Manning’s passes started looking like wounded ducks).
*Cincinnati plays about one game every three weeks where they look like a laughingstock. Despite leading a great division…they were badly outplayed at home by Pittsburgh, New England, and even Cleveland (!). There will be no slouches in the AFC brackets this season. Cincinnati laid an egg in the playoffs last year vs. San Diego. Are they really any better?
Both teams have lost blowouts to New England. Each will be trying to send a statement Monday Night that they’re ready to go the distance. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats say about the matchup…
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Denver: 11-3 (#2 schedule in USA Today)
Cincinnati: 9-4-1 (#25 schedule in USA Today)
Wow…major development there. It’s not widely understood that Cincinnati (and the rest of the AFC North) have played very weak schedules this season. They’ve all had to play each other a lot, so there’s a kneejerk reaction that they must be facing tough slates. Not the case…because they’re matched up against the lowly NFC South in the interconference schedule rotation! This is why Cincinnati keeps getting exposed by quality. They might be 7-6-1 against a league average schedule. Denver is a legitimate 11-3 who might be 12-2 or 13-1 against a league average schedule. Big difference.
Denver: 6.0 on offense, 4.7 on defense
Cincinnati: 5.5 on offense, 5.3 on defense
And, now, the edge grows even more. Denver is a whopping +1.3 yards-per-play vs. a killer schedule. Cincinnati is barely over break even against a soft schedule. Those are blowout numbers for the Broncos…or would be if they were playing at home and Peyton Manning was at full strength. Cincinnati’s defense is pretty good though…and they’ll be playing in front of a boisterous crowd in late December weather. The Bengals hope that will be an equalizer.
Denver has shown up on TV a lot this season…and we’ve talked a few times about their disappointment in this stat. It’s getting better. But, they don’t have the true profile of a classic champion yet because their defense doesn’t force enough turnovers, and their offense makes too many. Still, +6 vs. a tough schedule is a lot better than -2 against a soft one. Cincinnati is really being exposed as a pretender in our indicator stats.
Good job by the markets for the most part staying in synch with these teams. Denver is always dealing with tough hurdles to clear because they’re priced at perfection. Cincinnati was a playoff team last year, and gets few breaks themselves as a result.
Current Line: Denver by 3.5, total of 47.5
Clearly, the market sees Denver as much superior. They know the stats! Home field advantage is worth three points. So, Denver would be -6 or -6.5 on a neutral field, and possibly as high as -9 or -10 at home. As bad as Cincinnati looks once you dig deeper…is THAT really justified? And, given how shaky Peyton Manning’s downfield passing has been even in victories…will Denver play to its full season math in such a tough scheduling spot against a good defense?
JIM HURLEY knows that Monday is the important betting night of the week…and that the Monday before the holidays is the most important Monday in the calendar year! Everyone HAS to win this game. He and his full team of experts will do whatever it takes to find the right side or total for NETWORK clients. You can purchase the final word for this one (plus the Miami Beach Bowl featuring BYU and Memphis) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-888-777-4155 any time Monday during normal business hours. Be sure to ask about the rest of our bowl program and combination packages with basketball when you call.
We’ll take you through Christmas with five straight days of bowl previews here in the NOTEBOOK before wrapping up the NFL regular season on Sunday. Here’s the current schedule…
Tuesday: Boca Raton Bowl Preview…Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
Wednesday: Hawaii Bowl Preview…Fresno State vs. Rice
Thursday: Early Look...Rutgers vs. North Carolina in Friday’s Quick Lane Bowl
Friday: St. Petersburg Bowl Preview…North Carolina State vs. Central Florida
Saturday: Holiday Bowl Preview…Nebraska vs USC
Sunday: NFL TV Preview…to be determined
Monday: Texas Bowl Preview…Arkansas vs. Texas
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