4:15 PM ET, December 24, 2006
Invesco Field, Denver, CO
Cincinnati (8-6) at Denver (8-6) Sunday 4:15 pm EST
DENVER (Ticker) -- Jay Cutler has been entrusted with trying to get the Denver Broncos to the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The rookie quarterback will likely have to beat the Cincinnati Bengals for that to happen.
Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer is trying to get the Bengals to the postseason for the second consecutive year.
The winner of Sunday's game between the Broncos and Bengals will certainly have the inside track to a postseason berth.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6) and New York Jets (8-6) are tied with Denver and Cincinnati in the battle for the two AFC wild-card spots. The Jaguars host New England on Sunday and the Jets visit Miami on Monday.
After this weekend's contest, the Broncos host San Francisco and the Bengals host Pittsburgh.
Johnson has 80 catches for a league-leading 1,284 yards and seven touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time on Tuesday.
Perhaps the NFL's best cornerback, Bailey is tied for the league lead with eight interceptions. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the seventh time, including each of his three years with Denver.
Last week, the Broncos snapped a four-game losing streak with a 37-20 victory at Arizona. Cutler earned his first win in his third start, completing 21-of-31 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns.
"There is a learning curve (with Cutler) and there will be ups and downs," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "The guy is very composed and plays with a lot of confidence."
Cutler evoked memories of former Bronco John Elway with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Javon Walker last week. However, Walker suffered a first-degree shoulder separation and is listed as questionable for Sunday.
Acquired in an offseason trade with Green Bay, Walker has 62 receptions for 1,007 yards and seven TDs.
Bailey had a pair of interceptions in the win at Arizona. His first pick set up a 30-yard field goal by Jason Elam.
Along with Bailey, veteran safety John Lynch and linebacker Al Wilson were also named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday. It was the eighth selection for Lynch and the fifth for Wilson.
The Bengals had three Pro Bowl representatives as well - Palmer, Johnson and tackle Willie Anderson. Palmer has a 96.9 quarterback rating, completing 64 percent of his passes for 3,575 yards and 24 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
The Bengals had a four-game winning streak snapped last Monday in a 34-16 loss at Indianapolis.
More from ESPN.com
Saban: Talks with Peyton, Gase not together
Nick Saban visited with Peyton Manning at the Alabama football offices early last week. Saban also spent time with Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase on the same day and in the same location. But don't connect the dots any further, Saban says.
Broncos' visits to Bama catch NFL's attention
The NFL will ask some questions about why Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterback Peyton Manning crossed paths at the University of Alabama earlier this month.
Saban hosts Peyton in visit of 'mutual benefit'
Nick Saban hosted Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase last week for two days during a visit the Alabama Crimson Tide coach called "mutually beneficial."
Ocho Canada: Johnson joins CFL's Alouettes
Chad Johnson is headed north of the border.
Cutler getting more comfortable
These teams are both competing for wild-card spots. Denver is coming off a fine road win in Arizona against a Cardinals team that is playing much better than early in the season. Denver was sloppy protecting the football, but Jay Cutler played very well. The Broncos had a
four-game losing streak before the win in Arizona and could be building momentum at the right time of the year.
Cincinnati had a four-game winning streak before losing on Monday night in Indianapolis. During that streak, Cincinnati outscored its opponents 101-33. This is a far road trip for Cincinnati on a short week to an extremely difficult place to play. Both of these teams need a win badly to advance to the postseason. At the end of this game, one team will be 9-6 and the other 8-7 and in great jeopardy of watching the playoffs from home.
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|Avg Points Allowed||20.5||18.6|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||CIN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||CIN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Denver leads 2-1|
|Oct 25, 2004||CIN 23, DEN 10|
|Sep 7, 2003||CIN 10, DEN 30|