NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Not Enough Horses
by Dennis Ranahan

In two weeks time, the Denver Broncos have gone from an also-ran, losers of six of their most recent seven games with whispers that head coach Vance Johnson’s job was in jeopardy, to being mentioned as one of the “alive” teams for a Wild Card playoff berth.

What happened?

Denver went into Los Angeles a couple Sundays ago and upset the Los Angeles Chargers to snap the home team’s six game winning streak. Last Sunday, at home, the Broncos ended another six game winning streak with a victory over the first place Pittsburgh Steelers.

Oh, that’s what happened. Denver beat a couple formidable foes who both were in tough motivational spots and suddenly they are vaulted into postseason conversations. This week, the Broncos take their surging show on the road to meet the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that if they were a building in flames the firemen on the scene would be content to save the structures around the one engulfed in flames.

The Bengals, coached by Marvin Lewis, who is now serving his 16th season in that role, started the 2018 season with a pair of wins, and victories in four of their first five games. Maybe the decision to keep Lewis as head coach, an outcome that seemed unlikely after two straight losing campaigns and no postseason wins in his Cincinnati career, was warranted.

Or maybe not.

Lewis seems like a pilot guiding a glider losing altitude too fast. If this team doesn’t catch a burst to save this season, the chances of Lewis keeping his job after another losing campaign is very small unless the Bengals are bent on doing something other than win. Lewis was the architect of one of the best defenses in National Football League history, he served as Defensive Coordinator on Brian Billick’s Baltimore Ravens staff in 2000. That was one of only two teams to win a Super Bowl nearly totally relying on their defense to get the job done. For the record, the 1990 New York Giants was the other.

One reason Lewis has survived while losing all seven postseason games the Bengals have played under his direction, and suffering what appears to be another losing season, is because Lewis is a really solid man who is well liked. But, that relationship can only last so long when the job title is not public relations but head coach. Lewis’ job is not to be liked, but to win.

So, with the Bengals dropping like an anvil off a roof, and the Broncos surging into playoff consideration, what chance does the home team have this week when Denver visits Paul Brown Stadium?

Better than you might first imagine.

The Broncos recent success is pinned on a pair of excellent motivational spots. The Chargers were riding high and expected an easy game against Denver, and appeared on the way to a home win before a fourth quarter collapse ended in a one-point Broncos win. Last week, Denver was in perhaps the best motivational spot for any team this year, and needed a couple breaks and an interception in the endzone with seconds remaining on the clock, to gain a touchdown win over the respected Steelers.

Now, they go from those two sweet spots, to a trap set to favor the home standing Bengals. Cincinnati endured the embarrassment of handing the Cleveland Browns a win last week in front of their home fans, Cleveland’s first road victory after 25 consecutive losses away from their home stadium.

Do you see the motivational mismatch here?

The Broncos come in with more confidence than a parent playing basketball in the driveway against his five-year-old, while the Bengals are looking to avenge five losses in their last six games including the defeat last week to Cleveland.

Denver was able to win in good spots, but that doesn’t mean they have the horses to win in a bad one.

Qoxhi Picks: Cincinnati Bengals (+5) over Denver Broncos