The Denver Broncos swept the NFL odds in October, but they’re only 3-4 ATS since then. The Cincinnati Bengals might have the betting value Monday night when they host Denver as 3-point dogs – or higher.
Jason’s record after Week 15: 36-50-1 ATS, 18-26-1 Totals
It’s still not too late. In our early look at where the public money is likely to fall in Week 16, we saw the Denver Broncos walking the tightrope as 3-point road faves for their Monday Night Football matchup (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) with the Cincinnati Bengals. That was Denver –3 with the vigorish as high as –125. 5Dimes had the Broncos at –3.5 (+105).
That’s still the case as we go to press. Despite the Broncos pulling in as much as 70 percent consensus in early betting, the football odds have yet to fully burst that magic 3-point bubble. It’s very likely we’ll see that happen once the weekend rolls around, though, if not before. Which still leaves us with a dilemma: Bet on Denver now, or bet on Cincinnati later?
I Am Kurious Oranj
The advanced stats appear to support the early sharp action on Denver. To recap: The Broncos (11-3 SU, 7-7 ATS) have been playing better than their record would suggest at 12.3 Estimated Wins, while the Bengals (9-4-1 SU, 7-6-1 ATS) have played worse at 7.6 EW. Strength of schedule is the somewhat hidden factor here. Also, comparing Denver’s plus-10.4 SRS and Cincinnati’s plus-0.3 SRS leads us to a stat-driven “point spread” of Broncos –7.5 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Those stats are for the first 14 games of the season, though. What have these teams done for us lately? Denver has won four games in a row, but only at 2-2 ATS. Cincinnati is 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS in its past four contests. Again, strength of schedule is key; the Broncos have faced stiffer competition, including last week’s 22-10 road win against the San Diego Chargers (+4 at home). The Bengals have had it somewhat easier, beating up on Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns (–2.5 at home) in Week 15. Don’t let the NFL odds fool you – Manziel was clearly underprepared in a 30-0 rout.
Block and Tackle
As the Broncos proved during last year’s playoffs, late-season injuries can derail a championship team. This has been a busy week at the infirmary; LB Danny Trevathan is out for the season after dislocating his kneecap in San Diego, while LB Brandon Marshall expects to miss 1-2 weeks with a Lisfranc-area sprain. Marshall is Denver’s top linebacker this year (113 tackles, nine passes defended); Trevathan was last year’s No. 1 LB (129 tackles, 10 PD), but sat out 11 of the first 13 games in 2014 with knee problems.
With LB Nate Irving (knee) already on injured reserve, the Broncos will have to give significant snaps to a trio of rookies: Lamin Barrow, Todd Davis and Corey Nelson. Davis has played reasonably well in spot situations since arriving in November off the New Orleans Saints practice squad. We’ll see how Davis performs Monday night with a heavier workload.
The Bengals have also lost their top linebacker from 2013, Vontaze Burfict (171 tackles, six PD), courtesy of a lingering knee injury that has kept him on the shelf since late October. But Cincinnati could have TE Jermaine Gresham (50 catches, three TDs) back in the lineup on Monday after he missed the Browns game with a toe injury. Gresham is the No. 1-ranked pass-blocking tight end this year at Pro Football Focus.
We’ll look at some of the other developing injury situations when we come back with our NFL picks against the spread and total. But for now, it appears the Orange Crush defense needs to be downgraded for Monday’s contest. May the prolate spheroid be with you.