Wild Card Preview: San Diego Chargers AT Cincinnati Bengals

Posted: January 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

Bengals-Chargers.blackout.400

 

Rundown

Date and Time: Sunday, January 5th, 1:00 PM
Venue: Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH (Flurries, 30 degrees)
Spread: Cincinnati by 7
Last Meeting: December 1st, 2013 (Bengals, 17-10)

Overview

For the second time in five weeks, the Bengals and Chargers will meet on Sunday. This time, the stakes are higher, as Cincinnati will be in search of their first playoff win since 1990. The Bengals won the AFC North for the second time in three years, and have made the playoffs in each of Andy Dalton’s first three campaigns. Their offense is strong, with a dual threat at running back in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovanni Bernard. The passing game, led by Dalton and dynamite young WR AJ Green, has been supplemented in 2013 by young Marvin Jones. The defense, meanwhile, is one of the best currently in the postseason. The midseason loss of Geno Atkins to injury has hampered their title hopes. But, the Bengals still possess the “goods” to make them a bonafide threat in the AFC.

As for San Diego, their path to the postseason was a bit different. The Chargers, in their first season under former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, began the season 5-7 after a December 1st loss to the Bengals. Since then, they’ve won four consecutive games and got the necessary help in week 17 to leapfrog both Miami and Baltimore into the AFC’s final playoff spot. Philip Rivers is headed to another Pro Bowl after throwing 32 touchdowns this season, a majority of which went to rookie WR Keenan Allen (71 Rec, 1046 yards, 8 TD). On defense, the Chargers are hit-and-miss. They allowed less than 100 rushing yards per game in weeks 14-16. But, allowed 143 on the ground to the Chiefs’ backups a week ago.

Cincinnati’s Chances

The Bengals have the offense to go deep in the playoffs. Dalton (33 TD – 20 INT) can throw the deep ball as well as anyone. But, the turnovers have to be limited if the Bengals hope to survive beyond the Divisional round. Their +1 turnover differential was hampered by last weeks 4 interception performance by the third-year pro out of TCU. Cincinnati’s running game has seen Bernard provide a spark in the passing game (56 Rec, 514 yards, 3 TD) while Green-Ellis (220 Att, 756 yards, 7 TD) takes the interior rushes. MLB Vontaze Burfict (113 tackles) has been solid in the middle, and is the leader of Cincinnati’s 5th ranked scoring defense.

If Dalton can limit the turnovers and the combination of Green and Jones can continue their vertical assault (21 TD this season between the two wideouts), the Bengals have a real shot at not only defeating San Diego, but giving New England a run for their money as well. The defense is still good enough without Atkins that they should be able to hold the Patriots under 25 points, a necessity if one has any hopes of defeating Brady and Co.

San Diego’s Chances

As evidenced by the fact that I illustrated a future matchup between Cincinnati and New England, I don’t like the Chargers’ chances this weekend. San Diego deserves a ton of credit for winning four consecutive games to make the playoffs. But, they don’t possess the intangibles necessary to go into a cold environment like Cincinnati and get a win. The Chargers can score points, that’s for sure. But, their defense has not proven an ability to keep teams off the field.

Even a week ago, in their playoff clinching victory against the Chiefs’ backups, the Chargers were unable to defend the run and made Chase Daniel look proficient in forcing the game to overtime. The Chargers are unlikely to survive the weekend. Though, even if they did, their season would come to an unsatisfying end in Denver.

Prediction

As mentioned above, San Diego has to overcome a porous defense if they have any hopes of beating the Bengals. At the same time, Cincinnati hasn’t exactly thrived in this position in the past. The past two seasons, the Bengals fell at home in the first round of the playoffs. Under Marvin Lewis, they’re 0-3 in the postseason and haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, the longest drought in the NFL.

But, the Chargers are the classic no-chance sixth seed. They’re also a warm weather, California coast team that relies too much on the offense to pull out a road victory in a hostile environment. This will be the classic affair where the score is closer than the game actually was. Bengals 24, Chargers 17

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