It’s time to make a choice. The Denver Broncos are one of the very best teams in football, but the Cincinnati Bengals should have some betting value as 3-point home dogs on the Week 16 NFL odds board.
Jason’s record after Week 15: 36-50-1 ATS, 18-26-1 Totals
Curiouser and curiouser. We’ve been tracking the NFL odds for Sunday night’s matchup (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) between the Denver Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals, waiting for the Broncos to move off the magic number three. Instead, there’s been a little bit of a pushback. Denver is widely available at –3 (–115) as we go to press, down from –3 (–125) earlier in the week.
No sweat. We still expect casual bettors to flood the marketplace this weekend and bet the Broncos up to –3.5 and maybe beyond. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to recommend waiting until closer to kick-off and betting on the Bengals. If you can still get Denver at –3 (–115) as you read this, perhaps you should jump on those football odds like Tiny Tim on a Christmas pudding.
Montee Got a Raw Deal
Perhaps. Peyton Manning has a personal record of 8-0 SU against the Bengals, including a 31-23 victory in 2012, when Denver was laying five points at Paul Brown Stadium. But Manning (106.4 passer rating) hasn’t been quite as dominant as usual over the past few weeks. In last Sunday’s 22-10 win over the San Diego Chargers (+4 at home), Manning was suffering from flu-like symptoms before the game, and he picked up a minor thigh injury that cost him a series.
The Broncos (11-3 SU, 7-7 ATS) have also been leaning a little more heavily on the running game of late. C.J. Anderson (4.6 yards per carry) has been very effective in relief of Montee Ball, who’s out for the season with a groin injury, and Ronnie Hillman, who may or may not return this week, depending on his sprained foot. Anderson has carried the ball an average of 27.2 carries per game over the past month; the Broncos won all four games at 2-2 ATS, covering both their road trips.
Pow R. Tot H.
It makes sense that Denver’s been emphasizing the run game given the wear-and-tear on Manning and the emergence of Anderson – but also because of the opponents in question. The Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs are all much better at pass defense; San Diego is the only one of the four that’s stronger against the run, and that was the game where Manning was given an IV before kick-off.
As it turns out, run defense has been Cincinnati’s Achilles heel this year. The Bengals (9-4-1 SU, 7-6-1 ATS) rank No. 9 overall in defensive efficiency against the pass, according to the DVOA stats at Football Outsiders. Against the run? No. 30 overall. The defensive line has had major issues in run blocking, especially on the right side. Denver’s offensive line ranks No. 7 in power situations – third or fourth down with two yards to go or less. Anderson should be able to keep the chains moving on what should be a rainy night in Cincinnati.
You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out
Maybe the quarterback on the other side needs an IV, too. Andy Dalton (82.9 passer rating) has been up-and-down this year, but mostly down over the past nine games. The “Red Rifle” has nine TD passes and 11 picks during this span, and his Bengals are treading water at 4-4-1 ATS. According to the passing DVOA stats at Football Outsiders, Dalton (minus-3.0 percent) ranks No. 23 among QBs with at least 100 pass attempts, just ahead of Tampa Bay’s Mike Glennon (minus-3.4 percent).
As much as it pains us to move away from the traditional “value pick” with the home dogs, we’re going to have to recommend the Broncos as your NFL pick in this situation – especially if you can still get them at –3. Given the way the 2014 NFL season has played out, we’ll gladly take adaptation over tradition.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Broncos -3 at BetOnline