Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. Eastern.
Television: CBS broadcast with Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Trent Green (analyst) and Jamie Erdahl (sideline reporter). The game will air in the Bengals home market on WKRC-TV (Channel 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Channel 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Channel 27) in Lexington.
Radio: Coverage on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst). The game also will be aired to a national audience on ESPN Radio. Broadcasters are Marc Kestecher (play-by-play) and Willie Colon (analyst).
Setting the scene: Past the halfway point of the season and standing at 3-6, the Cincinnati Bengals certainly realize that time is running out for the possibility of turning their 2017 fortunes around and making a run for the playoffs. But if that notion creates senses of urgency and unease, it also should come with some feelings of hopefulness and opportunity.
Until the math says otherwise, while it is true that the Bengals' playoff hopes will diminish with each additional loss moving forward, it also is true that, if the team initiates a winning streak this week, each victory likewise will re-energize and renew those same aspirations.
The Bengals have to look no further than their own 2012 season for inspiration. Cincinnati that year started with the same 3-5 record it took into last week's contest, then won seven of it's last eight games to make the playoffs as a 10-6 Wild Card. Also in '12, the Washington Redskins started 3-6 and made the playoffs as a 10-6 NFC East champion.
"What we have here, we can build on," said head coach Marvin Lewis, who led that 2012 Bengals squad to the postseason. "It's not too late. I know that. We still have a chance, and we have enough good football players on this team to take advantage of that chance and get it done."
Realistically, that surely must start this week, when the Bengals travel to take on the 3-6 Denver Broncos on Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos have lost five straight games, but they own a 3-2 record at home this season, thus the Bengals will have their work cut out for them.
"It's been tough and it won't be easy, but it's the way things are falling right now," said wide receiver A.J. Green. "All we can do is control our attitude and the way we work, and keep fighting. The one thing about this team is that we're not going to give up, no matter what our record is. We're going to continue to fight. Things don't go your way all the time. That's why you have to stay level-headed and keep working."
Last week at Tennessee, the Bengals suffered a 24-20 loss to the Titans in a game they had a good chance to win. Cincinnati trailed Tennessee by three points at halftime, 17-14. After a scoreless third period, the Titans appeared to extend the lead early in the fourth quarter when QB Marcus Mariota connected with WR Corey Davis for what was ruled on the field to be a 20-yard touchdown. On review, however, the play was reversed. Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick had hustled to catch up with Davis and knocked the ball out of his hands prior to crossing the goal line. Since the fumble went out of bounds in the end zone, the play instead was ruled a touchback in favor of Cincinnati.
After both teams failed to move the ball out of their own territories on each of their next two possessions, the Bengals quickly took the lead on their third possession of the fourth quarter. On the second play of that drive, QB Andy Dalton hit Green on a slant, then Green broke two tackle attempts and outran the Titans' secondary for a 70-yard touchdown and a 20-17 lead with 5:03 left.
Tennessee's offense, which the Bengals had held to just 73 net yards in the second half to that point, responded by doubling that output on the following possession. The Titans drove 73 yards on 12 plays to retake the lead, scoring the game's final points on a seven-yard dump-off pass from Mariota to RB DeMarco Murray, who made the catch on the four-yard line and split two Bengals defenders while extending the ball across the goal line with 36 seconds left.
While most headlines after the game focused mainly on Tennessee's final scoring drive, the storyline the Cincinnati coaching staff may focus most on this week was third downs, on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Bengals converted just one of 10 third downs, while the Titans converted seven of 15. In the past two games, the Bengals' offense has converted just two of 18 third downs (11.1 percent), while their defense has allowed opponents to convert 19 of 33 (57.6). That discrepancy has resulted in opponents running 75 more plays than the Bengals (162-87) in those two contests. If the Bengals are to begin a lengthy winning streak this week against the Broncos, their turnaround efforts certainly start there.
"We aren't going to give up," said CB Dre Kirkpatrick. "We're going to ride it out until the end, no matter what. We have to get back to it this week, but soon it could turn into a pride game, and we're not ready for that. We're still looking forward to the getting a win. We have to win so the season doesn't become a fight for our pride."
The series: Denver leads 21-9 overall and 13-2 as the home team.
The Broncos have won the last two meetings, 20-17 in overtime in 2015 in Denver and 29-17 in '16 in Cincinnati. The Bengals' last win was a 37-28 victory in 2014 in Cincinnati.
There are no postseason meetings between the two teams.
Team bests from the series:
Bengals — MOST POINTS: 38, in a 38-21 victory at Riverfront Stadium in 1981. LARGEST VICTORY MARGIN: 17, in the 38-21 win in '81. FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED: 7, in a 17-7 victory at Cincinnati in 1976.
Broncos — MOST POINTS: 45, in a 45-14 victory at Mile High Stadium in 1991. LARGEST VICTORY MARGIN: 31, in the 45-14 win in '91. FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED: 0, in a 10-0 victory at Mile High Stadium in 1979.
Records vs. Broncos: In 2011 at Denver, Bengals QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green hooked up for 10 pass completions, the most in NFL history by a rookie QB-WR duo. Green totaled 124 yards and one TD.
Other records from past Bengals-Broncos games include:
● HB Corey Dillon rushed for a Bengals-record 278 yards vs. Denver on Oct. 22, 2000, at Paul Brown Stadium. The total at the time was the NFL record, breaking a mark of 275 by Chicago's Walter Payton which had stood since 1977. Dillon's 278 total now stands fourth in NFL annals. The record is now 296, posted by Minnesota's Adrian Peterson in 2007 vs. San Diego. Dillon had no receiving yards in the Oct. 22, 2000 contest, but his 278 rushing total also stands as the Bengals record for most yards from scrimmage in a game.
● Denver's Trindon Holliday had a 105-yard kickoff return vs. Cincinnati in 2012, tying for the longest play ever against the Bengals. Miami's Mercury Morris had a 105-yard KOR against the Bengals in 1969.**
● The Bengals had 407 total rushing yards in the 2000 win over Denver. That is the Cincinnati team record, and it also stands as the most rushing yards in a game by an NFL team in the last 66 years. The last team to top 407 was the 1950 N.Y. Giants, who gained 423 against Baltimore. The 407 total ranks fifth all-time in the NFL for rushing yards by a team.
● On Oct. 19, 1969 at Nippert Stadium, the Broncos posted 10 sacks against the Bengals, which is tied for most ever allowed by Cincinnati in a game.
● On Oct. 6, 1968 at Denver, Bill Van Heusen of the Broncos punted 12 times for 532 yards, marking the most punts by a Bengals opponent in team history. That record was later tied by Steelers P Josh Miller, who recorded 12 punts for 526 yards on Oct. 15, 2000 at Pittsburgh.
Individually vs. Broncos: The Bengals and Broncos have met in five of the last six seasons, and seven Bengals offensive players on the current active roster have posted stats in those contests.
● WR A.J. Green: Five games; 38 receptions for 439 yards (averages of 7.6 catches and 87.8 yards per game), with three TDs.
● QB Andy Dalton: Four games; 91-for-139 passing (65.5 percent) for 983 yards (245.8 per game), with five TDs and three INTs; passer rating of 89.1.
● HB Giovani Bernard: Three games; 21 rushes for 58 yards (2.8); 14 receptions for 110 yards (7.9) with one TD.
● WR Tyler Boyd: One game; Three receptions for 18 yards (6.0).
● TE Tyler Kroft: One game; Four receptions for 46 yards (11.5).
● WR Brandon LaFell: One game; Two receptions for 34 yards (17.0).
● TE C.J. Uzomah: One game; Two receptions for 31 yards (15.5).
Bengals career records watch: Here is a look at potential upcoming movement in the Bengals' career records book (regular season).
● QB Andy Dalton has 22 career 300-yard passing games, one shy of QB Boomer Esiason for the Bengals' all-time lead.
● Dalton also has 3331 career passing attempts, 233 shy of Esiason (3564) for second place all-time. QB Ken Anderson (4475) is the Bengals' all-time leader. Dalton passed QB Carson Palmer (3217) for third place all-time in Game 5, Oct. 8 vs. Buffalo.
● WR A.J. Green has 31 career 100-yard receiving games, tied with WR Chad Johnson for the Bengals' all-time lead.
● Green also has 525 career receptions, five shy of WR Carl Pickens (530) for second place all-time. Johnson (751) is the Bengals' all-time leader. Green passed WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (507) for third place all-time in Game 5, Oct. 8 vs. Buffalo.
● Green also has 54 career receiving TDs, nine shy of Pickens (63) for second place all-time. Johnson (66) is the Bengals' all-time leader. Green passed WR Isaac Curtis (53) for third place all-time in Game 9, Nov. 12 at Tennessee.
● Green also has 54 career total TDs, 10 shy of Pickens and RB James Brooks (64) for third place all-time. FB Pete Johnson (70) is the Bengals' all-time leader. Green passed WR Isaac Curtis (53) for fifth place all-time in Game 9, Nov. 12 at Tennessee.
● P Kevin Huber has 29,752 career punting yards, 2444 shy of the Bengals' all-time leader, P Lee Johnson (32,196). Huber passed P Pat McInally (29,307) for second place all-time in Game 8, Nov. 5 at Jacksonville.
● CB Adam Jones has 1099 career punt return yards as a Bengal, 102 shy of CB Lemar Parrish (1201) for third place all-time. WR Brandon Tate (1411) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● Jones also has one punt return for a TD as a Bengal. One more would tie him for second-most all-time with WR Peter Warrick, WR Craig Yeast and CB Mitchell Price (each with two). Parrish (four) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● DE Carlos Dunlap has 59 career sacks, tied with DE Ross Browner for third place all-time. DE Eddie Edwards (83.5) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
● DT Geno Atkins has 58 career sacks, one shy of Dunlap and Browner (59) for third place all-time. Edwards (83.5) is the Bengals' all-time leader.
Broncos represent several firsts: The Broncos have been involved in several "firsts" for the Bengals:
● The first road game of any kind in Bengals history was a preseason contest on Aug. 10, 1968 at Denver. The Broncos beat Cincinnati 15-13 at Bears Stadium, Denver's minor league baseball park (later renamed Mile High Stadium). It was the second preseason game in Bengals history, following an opener at home against Kansas City.
● The first regular-season home game and first regular-season victory for the Bengals franchise was a 24-10 decision over Denver on Sept. 15, 1968 at Nippert Stadium.
● On Sept. 7, 2003, the Broncos were the opponent in Marvin Lewis' first regular-season game as Bengals coach. Denver won, 30-10 at Paul Brown Stadium.
● The Bengals' 2004 win over Denver marked the first visit of Monday Night Football to Paul Brown Stadium.
Uniform watch: The Bengals are scheduled to wear white jerseys and black pants this week at the Broncos.
Since 2004, the year of the Bengals' last significant uniform redesign, a number of color options for jerseys and pants have been available.
Bengals-Broncos connections: Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was on the Bengals' staff as defensive backs coach from 2014-15 ... Broncos NT Domata Peko was a fourth-round draft pick (123rd overall) of the Bengals in 2006 and was with the team through the 2016 season ... Bengals H-B Ryan Hewitt is from Denver (J.K. Mullen High School) ... Broncos defensive line coach Bill Kollar played for the Bengals from 1974-76 ... Broncos DE Derek Wolfe played at the University of Cincinnati ... Broncos WR Cody Latimer is from Dayton, Ohio (Jefferson Township High School) ... Bengals DT Josh Tupou played at the University of Colorado ... Broncos TE Jeff Heuerman and CB Bradley Roby both played at Ohio State University ... Broncos offensive line coach Jeff Davidson and linebackers coach Fred Pagac both played at Ohio State University. Pagac also coached at Ohio State from 1978-2000. ... Broncos TE Austin Traylor (practice squad) is from Columbus, Ohio (Walnut Ridge High School) ... Broncos TE Jake Butt (Reserve/Injured) is from Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington North High School) ... Broncos OLB Deiontrez Mount (practice squad) played at the University of Louisville ... Broncos wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert coached at Ohio University in 1995.
Bengals' road offense converts in red zone: Scoring on the road can be difficult for any offense, and so is scoring TDs in the red zone. But the Bengals have managed near perfection when combining both of those challenges, scoring TDs on nine of their 10 trips into the red zone as the road team this season. That 90-percent TD conversion rate is the best in the NFL this season, with the Buccaneers (seven of nine; 77.8 percent), Jets (six of eight; 75 percent) and Vikings (10 of 14; 71.4 percent) coming closest.
Prior to last week's game at Tennessee, the Bengals' road offense had been perfect on the year at converting red-zone trips to TDs. A fumbled snap — and Titans recovery — on the first of their two red-zone trips, though, spelled the end of the streak. The Bengals did manage to score a TD (Joe Mixon three-yard rush) on their only other trip to the red zone on the day.
Prior to the Tennessee game, the Bengals were two-for-two scoring TDs in the red-zone in Game 3 at Green Bay, three-for-three in Game 4 at Cleveland, two-for-two in Game 6 at Pittsburgh, and one-for-one in Game 8 at Jacksonville.
Overall, Cincinnati ranks 26th in scoring TDs in the red zone, reaching the end zone in 11 of their 23 trips (47.8 percent).
The Bengals' opponent this week, Denver, ranks tied for 26th in the NFL in red-zone defense, having allowed touchdowns on 60.0 percent of their opponents' red-zone possessions (15 out of 25).
Bengals' defense locks down the red zone: The Bengals currently rank second in the NFL in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns on only 38.7 percent of opponents' trips into the red zone (12 of 31). Opponents have come away with points on 90.3 percent of their trips to the red zone (16 FGs, 12 TDs). Over the last four games, the Bengals have allowed just eight touchdowns on 22 opponent trips into the red zone.
The Broncos enter this weekend's game ranked tied for 29th in red-zone offense, scoring 13 TDs in 30 trips.