Broncos back to .500 after riding Lindsay past Bengals to third straight win
The 6-6 Denver Broncos’ playoff hopes are alive and well after their third consecutive win, 24-10 over the Cincinnati Bengals, which got Vance Joseph’s club back to .500 for the first time since Week 4.
However, the Broncos’ big victory came at a very steep cost. All-Pro CB Chris Harris Jr. suffered a fractured fibula, per 9News’ Mike Klis, who reports that the injury won’t require surgery but is expected to sideline Harris for four weeks.
“Hopefully we keep winning so I can come back,” said Harris, who has appeared in 122-of-123 regular-season games to begin his career.
In Harris’ absence, starting S Justin Simmons played nickel corner, according to Klis. The Broncos also lost starting DE Derek Wolfe (ribs) and rookie LB Josey Jewell (ankle) to in-game injuries and started Sunday without LB Brandon Marshall and CB Tramaine Brock.
The Broncos easily dispatched the free-falling Bengals behind electric undrafted rookie RB Phillip Lindsay, who amassed a career-high 157 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns, increasing his total to seven over the past six games. Fellow rookie Courtland Sutton scored Denver’s other touchdown, a 30-yard grab from Case Keenum, who has gone four consecutive games without a turnover after committing 11 in Denver’s 3-5 start.
The Broncos’ run game and O-line have been strengths much of the season, and Sunday was no different. However, their secondary, formerly nicknamed the “No Fly Zone,” was already an issue prior to losing Harris. Getting Brock back could help a CB room whose depth is severely depleted. The Broncos still could look to re-sign vet Pacman Jones, whom they released two weeks ago.
In his first-ever start, Bengals QB Jeff Driskel wasn’t equipped to take advantage Sunday, particularly with WR1 A.J. Green departing early after re-injuring the toe that sidelined him the past three games.
But the Broncos, who are currently looking up at the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts, still must face dangerous passing attacks in the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Chargers over the final month. The Colts, who were shutout in Jacksonville to snap their five-game win streak, visit Houston, winners in an NFL-high nine games, Sunday. The Dolphins, who survived the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, will see New England, Minnesota and Jacksonville over the next three weeks.
All three 6-6 clubs are looking up at the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens, who won their third consecutive game behind Lamar Jackson but could have a QB controversy brewing with Joe Flacco (hip) possibly set to return ahead of a Week 14 trip to face the conference-leading Chiefs.
Denver has the most manageable path to potentially overtaking Baltimore, but the Harris injury could provide a significant bump in the road.