It's been a wild season of Monday Night Football. Even if the matchups didn't often look great on paper, there were crazy finishes. Let's examine some props for this season's MNF finale.
The best MNF matchup was saved for last as it's a potential playoff preview between AFC North-leading Cincinnati (11-3) and Denver (10-4), which is atop the AFC West. The Bengals could clinch the division with a win or Steelers loss Sunday against Baltimore. Cincy also clinches a first-round bye with a win. Denver still could actually miss the playoffs entirely. It would clinch the AFC West with a win and Chiefs loss at home to Cleveland on Sunday. The Broncos would clinch a playoff spot with a win and Jets loss or a win and Steelers loss. By the way, while this is the final NFL game on a Monday this season, don't be surprised if we see an MNF playoff game possibly next year if the league, as expected, expands the playoffs by one team in each conference. So that would add two extra games in the wild-card round. There would be three on Sunday and most likely two on Saturday (late afternoon and prime time) -- the NFL would want another prime-time game as that means more money. And that surely means on Monday night. The Broncos’ Monday Night Football appearance this week marks their 24th consecutive season with at least one Monday night game (1992-present), the longest current streak in the NFL. Oakland holds the record with 28 consecutive seasons appearing on MNF. The Broncos are +1400 to win the Super Bowl on NFL odds and Bengals +2500.
A.J. McCarron 'Over/Under' 19.5 Completions, 228.5 Passing Yards, 2 TDs + INTs
McCarron did something no quarterback from the University of Alabama had done since 1987 last week: win as a starter in the NFL. It was McCarron's first career start with Andy Dalton out for at least the rest of the regular season with a broken thumb -- obviously earning a first-round bye would improve Dalton's chances of perhaps playing in the playoffs, although that's far from a sure thing. McCarron looked pretty good in a 24-14 victory in San Francisco, completing 15-for-21 for 192 yards with a touchdown, no turnovers and a rating of 115.6. The Bengals would take that every day. As you can see by the only 21 attempts, the Bengals went with a pretty run-heavy offense. They carried it 36 times for 68 yards. Now Cincinnati goes against a defense that is far superior to San Francisco's. The Broncos are the No. 1 defense in the NFL, allowing just 279.9 total yards per game. They are No. 1 against both the run (79.9) and the pass (200.0). That's not to say it's invincible. Ben Roethlisberger tore up that defense in the second half last week as the Steelers rallied for a win.
Free NFL Picks: 'Under' completions and yards, over TDs/INTs. I believe the Bengals will keep running the ball. Also working against McCarron: no Tyler Eifert, the Bengals' star tight end who has 12 TD passes; finally, it's going to be very cold in Denver, with temperatures possibly only in the single digits at some point. There's no chance of snow, however.
A.J. Green O/U 5.5 Catches, 78.5 Yards
With Aqib Talib and Chris Harris (he gave up the first passing TDs on him in two years last week), the Broncos have one of the best pair of cornerbacks in the NFL. Green is certainly on any short list of the best receivers in football. McCarron has been criticized for a weak arm and Green wasn't much of a factor last week against San Francisco in catching just one pass for 37 yards. He did catch a 66-yard TD pass from McCarron two weeks ago vs. Pittsburgh after McCarron had replaced the injured Dalton. All of the members of the Broncos' secondary have totaled nine interceptions on the year and have scored three touchdowns. They have also broken up 46 passes. Keep that in mind for your NFL picks.
Free NFL Picks: 'Under' both. With no Eifert in the middle of the field, the Denver defense can focus on Green.
Brock Osweiler O/U 22 Completions, 250.5 Passing Yards, 2 TDs + INTs
Will this be Osweiler's final start this season? That obviously depends on Peyton Manning's health and whether the Broncos have something to play for in Week 17. Osweiler is strangely a totally different guy in the second halves of games -- Denver hasn't scored in the second half the past three weeks. The Broncos have been outscored 36-0 in those second halves. And while Osweiler has a big arm, he is 5-for-22 with one touchdown and two interceptions on passes of 20-plus yards since taking over for Manning. Osweiler goes against a Bengals defense that ranks No. 1 in points allowed (17.4 ppg) and No. 17 against the pass, allowing 244.1 ypg. The Bengals have given up 16 TDs and picked off 19 passes.
Free NFL Picks: 'Under' all but TDs/INTs. I think both QBs get picked off at least twice.