CINCINNATI -- For AJ McCarron, being called a "game manager" isn't an insult. But he might need to be more than that in Monday night's showdown in Denver.
"I'm not calling myself a great quarterback, just saying all the great quarterbacks in the history of the game have been a game manager of some sort," McCarron said Wednesday.
"Knowing when to take a risk and when not to."
While he took few risks in Sunday's methodical 24-14 win at San Francisco, McCarron will have his feet put to the fire when the Bengals (11-3) face the Broncos' top-rated defense at Sports Authority Field.
Making his first career start in place of injured Andy Dalton, McCarron went 15 of 21 for 192 yards and a touchdown in the win over the 49ers.
As coach Marvin Lewis said, McCarron "managed the game."
But the Bengals built a 21-0 first-half lead in that one, allowing McCarron and the Cincinnati offense to be more conservative.
They Bengals aren't likely to have that luxury on Monday night.
With an AFC North title and a No. 2 overall seed in the AFC and first-round postseason bye at stake, McCarron might be asked to expand his options and take more chances downfield.
"When you see your opportunity, you can't miss, you've got to hit 'em and capitalize," McCarron said. "Timing-wise and windows, I feel really comfortable with the deep ball. I know where to put the ball."
McCarron is hoping to have all his weapons available for the mile-high showdown.
Receiver AJ Green is expected to at full strength after being limited last week with a back injury.
Tight end Tyler Eifert, who has missed the past two games with a concussion, remained in the league's protocol as of Wednesday and his status for Monday's game was day to day.
Denver's defense provides a formidable challenge.
The Broncos are looking to become the first team since the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles to lead the NFL in total defense, pass defense and rush defense.
"They play great in all three phases," Lewis said. "We're going to have to play the hardest (the) longest. It's a great opportunity. Both teams have earned it."
SERIES HISTORY: Denver leads 19-9 and is 12-2 as the home team. The Bengals won last year's meeting 37-28 at Paul Brown Stadium, also played on Monday night.
GAME PLAN: AJ McCarron and the Cincinnati offense was methodical in its approach after building a 21-point first half lead at San Francisco. They likely won't have that luxury on Monday night in Denver. Can the Bengals establish any semblance of a rushing attack against a Denver defense that hasn't given up 100 yards in a game in five weeks? That might be key to taking some pressure off McCarron and not having him force throws in what's expected to be blustery, cold conditions. Cincinnati's pass rush could have a big day against Broncos QB Brock Osweiler, who has been sacked 19 times this season. As is the case with most big games, winning the turnover battle will be key.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Bengals offensive line vs. Broncos LB Von Miller.
Cincinnati needs to neutralize Miller and prevent him from making it a rough day for QB AJ McCarron. Miller leads Denver with 10 sacks and has four forced fumbles.
--Bengals defense vs. Broncos QB Brock Osweiler.
Osweiler isn't Peyton Manning in his prime. But he presents a different set of challenges with his height and ability to get the ball downfield to big-play threats such as receiver Emmanuel Sanders.