The Cincinnati Bengals (11-3) will try to lock down the AFC's No. 2 seed when they visit a key conference foe at 8:30 p.m. ET Monday. The Denver Broncos (10-4) are all that stands between the Bengals and a shot at a much-needed week off at the start of the playoffs. Here are things to watch for during the game:
Why watch? You will want to stay tuned for the final two quarters (and the overtime if one occurs) on Monday. Why? For starters, Monday night games this season have been relatively close affairs, with each of the past nine games being decided by no more than eight points. That's the longest single-season streak in the program's history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Along with that, it could be in the final minutes that you witness some dramatic swings. After all, Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler has struggled in the second half of games he's started this season, and all season the Bengals' defense has made sound adjustments at halftime to cut down on rushing yardage and third-down conversions.
Per Stats & Information, Osweiler's completion percentage dips from 73.4 percent going into halftime, to 50 percent over the final two quarters and overtime this season. His first-half Total QBR has been 82.5 (ranks second among qualifying quarterbacks), but his second-half Total QBR plummets to 19.1 (ranks 36th). Clearly, he isn't the same player following the intermission. And before halftime this season, the Bengals have allowed a Total QBR of 54.3. After halftime, they have permitted a Total QBR of 37.0. Opposing rushing attacks haven't fared well after the half, either. Opponents gain 53.9 yards per game in the first two quarters, but just 39.3 yards over the final two quarters and overtime periods. Make sure you pay attention when Osweiler's offense is on the field Monday.
Keep your eyes ... On Bengals running back Jeremy Hill. Quite frankly, this just has not been Hill's season. The 635 yards he has through 14 games have been a real disappointment coming off a season in which he had 1,124 and was turning heads as a Rookie of the Year candidate. Although the yards haven't been there, the touchdowns have. Hill's career-high 10 rushing scores have all been timely. Nine have come from inside goal-line territory, meaning that when the rest of the offense gets the Bengals in striking distance, he's been finishing the drives off the way he should. After last Sunday's game -- one in which he was benched for a quarter for missing the start of a meeting -- there was the same sense of overall frustration in Hill's eyes that has persisted throughout the season. After 31-yard and 16-yard performances the past two weeks, can he have a breakthrough performance against the league's top rush defense? He did have 147 yards, including an 85-yard rushing touchdown in last season's game against the Broncos.
Did you know? Cincinnati hasn't had much success over the years on Monday night, particularly on the road. The Bengals are 11-21 all-time on Monday night, including the 10-6 Week 10 loss at home to the Texans this season. Away from home, the Bengals are 3-16 in Monday night games. Only the Falcons are worse as visitors at 1-15. The Bengals have lost five straight on the road on Monday night, with their last win coming Oct. 22, 1990 at Cleveland.