CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-6) AT DENVER BRONCOS (3-6)
SERIES HISTORY: 31st regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 21-9, including a 13-2 mark as the home team. Denver has won the past two meetings, 20-17 in overtime in Denver in 2015 and 29-17 at Paul Brown Stadium last season. The teams have never met in the postseason.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos have the fifth-best run defense in the NFL. That's not good news for the Bengals, who have struggled to run the ball this season.
In order to keep Von Miller's hands off Andy Dalton, Cincinnati will need to get creative, unless the Bengals somehow figure out a way to gain chunks of yardage with rookie Joe Mixon or newly signed Brian Hill.
Wide receiver A.J. Green needs to be involved in the offense early and often, but Broncos corner Aqib Talib will have a say in that.
The Broncos have to figure out a way to get off to better starts. Early turnovers and other miscues have defined them during a five-game losing streak that has seen them fail to score as much as a single first-half touchdown while falling into halftime deficits of 14 points (three times), 18 points and 22 points.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Bengals RBs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard vs. Broncos LBs Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis. Denver's linebackers have had trouble covering running backs and tight ends. While Cincinnati TE Tyler Kroft doesn't pose the same problems as some other tight ends the Broncos have seen in recent weeks, Mixon and Bernard have the capability to make plays in space and cause some issues. They have combined for 403 yards and two touchdowns on 38 receptions this season, and their work in the passing game could allow them to get involved if the Bengals opt to stay away from the Broncos' still-stout run defense.
--Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas vs. Bengals' cornerbacks. The 6-foot-3 Thomas creates matchup issues with the Bengals' cornerbacks, who last week struggled to cover the Titans' receivers without holding. Thomas has 569 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Broncos QB Paxton Lynch. He isn't all the way back to the lineup, but the second-year quarterback was throwing deep passes Wednesday, which marked his first time going long since he sprained his right shoulder in the third preseason game on Aug. 26. Perhaps the most significant part of Lynch's work was that he was seeing first-team repetitions on passing plays while Brock Osweiler rested his sore shoulder, meaning that Lynch was working ahead of season-opening starter Trevor Siemian.
FAST FACTS: Bengals QB Andy Dalton passed for two TDs and zero INTs for a 100.3 rating in Week 10. He has a 100-plus rating in two of the past three games. He has 155 career TD passes and passed Carson Palmer (154) for third most in franchise history. ... Bengals RB Joe Mixon aims for his third game in a row with a rushing TD. ... WR A.J. Green had 115 receiving yards, including a 70-yard TD, last week. He has 31 100-yard games, tied with Chad Johnson for most in franchise history. He has five TD catches in his past seven games. ... Bengals TE Tyler Kroft has three receiving TDs in the past four road games. ... Bengals DT Geno Atkins had a sack last week and has a sack in two of the past three games. ... Bengals LB Carl Lawson had a sack last week and leads all NFL rookies with 5.5 sacks. ... Broncos QB Brock Osweiler passed for 299 yards and a TD in his only career meeting (2015) with the Bengals. ... Broncos RB C.J. Anderson has 85 scrimmage yards in four of the past six games at home. ... Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders had 137 receiving yards last week. He has 15 100-yard games since 2014, tied for seventh in the NFL. Sanders (288 catches, 4,004 yards, 22 TDs) and WR Demaryius Thomas (354, 4,575, 24) are the only pair of teammates with 280 catches, 4,000 yards and 20 TDs each since 2014. Thomas had a TD catch last week. ... Broncos LB Von Miller has four sacks in his past four home games. He is tied for second in the AFC with 11 tackles for loss.
PREDICTION: It won't be pretty, but this is a game the Broncos can win and finally end their five-game skid.
OUR PICK: Broncos, 24-20.