coleryan Posts:13321 Followers:19
On 11/26/2013 08:34 AM in NFL

Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers: Preview and Pick

Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers: Preview and Pick

The Cincinnati Bengals spent their bye week getting geared up for the stretch run of the NFL season with hopes of claiming a division title in the AFC North. They start the week off by traveling to the west coast to take on the upstart San Diego Chargers. The Bolts are arguably off of their best win of the season as they beat the Kansas City Chiefs and stayed relevant in the playoff chase in the AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers Odds

The opening NFL point spread for this game have the Bengals listed as slim (-1.5) point favorites. This is an indication that the odds makers are not sold on the San Diego resurgence. However the football betting public is buying into the Bolts as over 70 percent of the early wagers are coming in on the home team. This point spread has not changed but make sure that you check in with your top rated sportsbook and shop for the best line leading up to kickoff.

The Bengals defense will have to be ready for this explosive offense. The Chargers gained 228 yards after the catch on Sunday, their highest in a game this season and the first time Kansas City allowed more than 190. The Chiefs entered Sunday as one of four teams to allow at least 6.0 yards after catch per reception. Ladarius Green gained 45 yards after the catch on his 60-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Kansas City's defense has allowed at least 45 yards of YAC on three plays this year- only the Rams (four) have more. The Chargers recorded at least 10 yards after the catch on 10 different receptions, joining the Packers (Week 2 vs Redskins) and Steelers (Week 9 vs Patriots) as the only teams to do that this year. The Chargers are eager to win again and ride the momentum into the playoffs.

The latest football betting trends for this game reveal that the Bengals may have the edge against the spread. The Bengals are 5-1-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last 7 games in December, 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win of more than 14 points, and 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games after scoring more than 30 points in their previous game. The Chargers are 2-8-1 ATS in their last 11 games after allowing more than 250 yards passing in their previous game, 1-7-1 ATS in their last 9 games following a straight up win and 1-7 ATS in their last 8 home games when playing a team with a winning road record.

Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of is big game, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13321 Followers:19
11/27/2013 01:23 PM

This week the San Diego Chargers find themselves in another must-win situation. They find themselves going up against the Jekyll and Hyde Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals lead the AFC North with a 7-4 record but have had a few disappointing outings this season. The Chargers, who have been inconsistent themselves, hope that the Bengals are out of sync this week as they look to keep their playoff hopes alive.

This game will present several interesting matchups that will go a long way to determine the outcome of the game.

First, A.J. Green battling Derek Cox could spell trouble for the Chargers. Green is a stud receiver who consistently makes big plays. Cox is an average corner at best, and he consistently gives up big plays. Last week, he gave up two huge plays to Donnie Avery, both well over 20 yards. Double coverage will be mandatory if the Chargers plan on slowing down Green.

A matchup that maybe overlooked but will be crucial for the Chargers to exploit will be Danny Woodhead on the Bengals linebackers. The Bengals linebacker core struggles in coverage. Woodhead, who is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, should be able to find holes in their coverage quite easily.

Rookie Keenan Allen has put his name in the offensive rookie of the year conversation and continued strong play this week will only help his cause. He will be going up against Adam Jones and Terence Newman. Neither of the two are considered shutdown corners but they are not to be taken lightly. Newman has had a solid season, and Jones is still a ball hawk when he has the chance. Allen will need to run crisp, clean, and precise routes to have success against them.

The game should be a close one and the difference could be a whether the Chargers can stop the big play. The Bengals have several ways to get chunk yardage. They run screens with Giovani Bernard. They create matchup problems with two quality tight ends, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. Their most dangerous big play options may be their version of the “wildcat” offense. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was a quarterback in college and he uses those abilities in the “wildcat” and on trick plays. He has been efficient in getting the ball downfield when asked to throw the ball.

If the Chargers can find a way to get a few stops and continue to play well on offense, they could find themselves back at .500 when the game is over.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13321 Followers:19
11/27/2013 01:24 PM

A little time off did a lot to recharge the AFC North leaders.

The Bengals had a light workout on Monday after getting some time to heal and regroup. Their late-in-the-season bye weekend gave several of their injured players a few more days to heal and get back on the field.

They really needed the break.

"I think it will be very helpful," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said on Monday after the workout. "Eleven weeks in a row, plus four preseason games is a hell of a stretch, you know what I mean? A couple other teams had to do it, too.

"It was a great timing for us, great to get away from them and them to get away from us and get their bodies right and then come back fresh. Being two games in front of the division with five to go is a great position to be in."

Cincinnati (7-4) is in control of the AFC North heading into a favorable stretch of the schedule. The Bengals have three of their last five games at home, where they're 5-0. Only one opponent currently has a winning record - Indianapolis (7-4), which has to come to Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals are tied with the Colts for fourth-best record in the AFC. Denver and Kansas City are 9-2, New England 8-3. They lead the AFC North by two games over the Steelers (5-6) and Ravens (5-6), who play on Thursday night in Baltimore.

The bye also worked out well as far as travel. They got some time to rest for their last long trip of the regular season, playing on Sunday in San Diego. The Chargers (5-6) are in a group of six teams tied for the final wild card berth after winning in Kansas City 41-38 on Sunday.

"We have five games to really make a run and put our name out there," receiver Marvin Jones said. "The bye week was a big help. I've never had a late bye week like that. We're ready to make this last push and go for it all."

The Bengals reached the bye with several players limited by nagging injuries. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga has missed the last three games with a concussion and an injured left knee, but was back on the field Monday. Several others who have been limited joined in as well.

"We didn't do a whole lot, but it's good to have them back," defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said.

Linebacker Vincent Rey, who filled in while Maualuga was out, expects to return to his backup role.

"He looked great," Rey said. "I'm glad to have him back. He makes plays. I'm looking forward to him being out there on defense."

One of the priorities coming out of the bye is to cut down on the interceptions that have forced them to rally from behind. Andy Dalton has thrown eight interceptions in the last three games, two of them returned for touchdowns.

During a 41-20 win over Cleveland heading into the bye, Dalton threw a pair of interceptions in the first quarter that helped the Browns pull ahead 13-0. Cornerback Joe Haden had both interceptions, returning the second one for a touchdown.

Gruden said receiver A.J. Green went one way and Dalton expected him to go a different way on the first interception. He said Green cut short his route on the other interception, allowing Haden to jump in front.

The defense and special teams each scored a touchdown during a 31-point second quarter that put the game out of reach.

Some of the interceptions have been the result of off-target throws and poor decisions by the quarterback.

"Everybody throws interceptions from time to time," Gruden said. "If you're going to play quarterback, you're going to throw an interception from time to time. You can't dwell on it, you've got to move on and figure out a way to win the game.

"Luckily our defense and special teams had a hell of an outing and gave us a huge lead and it didn't become a factor. But obviously eight interceptions in three weeks is too many."

The Bengals have struggled to convert third downs, and their running game and pass protection have been inconsistent in the last few games, contributing to an overall decline in the offense's production.

"There's not really a part of the game that any team right now, after week 11, can say they're perfect at," Gruden said. "Even the best teams statistically, they're having issues in the running game or maybe protection or what have you."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13321 Followers:19
11/27/2013 01:25 PM


In a league where passing is king, having a secondary with personnel turmoil is not exactly ideal. Unfortunately that is the exact predicament facing the San Diego Chargers as they head toward the final handful of games that will decide their postseason fate with a back third of the defense that has been ravaged by opposing passers all season long. So how can they fix these issues that have plagued them all season long in just a week’s time before their next tilt?

Competition.

Head coach Mike McCoy officially opened up each and every spot in the team’s secondary for the taking this week in practice as the coach told ESPN: “We’re going to let the guys compete this week, and let them go. We’re going to let the DBs compete this week, and come this week we’ll find out what we think is the best combination for us, like any position on our football team.”

And that really is the only way to get the best performance out on the field on a week-to-week basis. Instead of focusing on the lucrative contract that the team signed struggling cornerback Derek Cox to in the offseason, it’s time the Bolts find the best performer at this current moment and plug him into the lineup. The big free agent addition from this past offseason has already been benched three times in the past four weeks, but the issues in coverage have persisted in a secondary with holes everywhere.

It’s not just busted coverage that has led to the Bolts having the 27th ranked pass defense in the NFL either. Their 276 passing yards allowed per contest were certainly worsened by the team’s propensity for taking crucial penalties to keep drives alive. San Diego was flagged for five defensive penalties against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday which included four pass interference calls and one defensive holding. These types of calls mandate an automatic first down which bails out an opposing offense and gives them new life even though they didn’t even pick up a single yard. Self-inflicted wound like this will ultimately bleed the Bolts to death down the stretch if they are unable to find the proper tourniquet.

With just four interceptions on the year, the Chargers really haven’t had much worth celebrating in pass coverage this season. The team has used a wide variety of personnel from the starters in Cox, Shareece Wright, Eric Weddle, and Marcus Gilchrist to reserves Johnny Patrick, Richard Marshall, Crezdon Butler, Brandon Taylor and Jahleel Addae. Each has shown flashes of positive potential, but each player has had their own individual struggles at times as well.

What this message from McCoy means at the beginning of the week of practice is that no job is safe on this roster. Regardless of whether or not this team ultimately makes the playoffs, coach McCoy and general manager Tom Telesco are looking to find the best players on this roster so that they know who to build around and who to discard moving forward. Something tells me a big part of what takes place in the secondary over the final five weeks of the season will have a significant impact on those decisions.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13321 Followers:19
11/27/2013 01:26 PM

- On Offense for the Chargers

Already playing at a high level, Philip Rivers is historically at his best when the calendar turns to December. He boasts a lifetime record of 26-5 as the team’s starting signal caller, which is the most in the NFL since 2006. Rivers ranks third all-time in the month of December with a passer rating of 98.4. Including a stint in the 2005 season finale, he has completed 585 of 940 (62.2%) for 7,240 yards, 56 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions. Rivers comes into Sunday’s game as the NFL’s fifth-highest rated passer with a rating of 106.6, nearly 11 points higher than his career rating of 95.7. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is nearly three-to-one (22-to-8), well above his career TD-to-INT ratio of 211-to-101. Rivers is also completing passes at a league-leading 70.8% clip, more than six percentage points higher than his 64.4 career ledger. With 3,381 yards through the season’s first 11 games, Rivers is on pace to pass for 4,918 yards, which would shatter the franchise record of 4,802 yards set by Dan Fouts in 1981.

- On Offense for the Bengals

First and foremost, the Chargers will need to be aware of wherever A.J. Green is on the field. One of the most lethal wide receiver weapons in the NFL, Green is coming off his worst game of the season, a two-catch, seven-yard performance vs. the Cleveland Browns. That ended his franchise record performance of five 100-yard receiving games in a row. After not playing last week due to the bye, Green enters this week in third place in the NFL in receiving yards. With 1,020 yards, he’s only 24 behind AFC leader Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh (1044) and 178 behind Calvin Johnson of Detroit.

- On Defense for the Chargers

San Diego features a young defense, which as a whole has been hit particularly hard by the injury bug, especially at outside linebacker where the Chargers have been decimated by injuries. Two starters Dwight Freeney and Larry English - have been lost for the season, and Jarret Johnson has missed time recently due to a hamstring strain and a hand injury. Melvin Ingram, last year’s first round pick was expected to start, but he’s spent the first 12 weeks of the season on the “Physically Unable to Perform” list while recovering from an offseason knee injury. He returned to practice last week and the Chargers are hopeful of getting Ingram back on the field before the end of the season. One of the team’s top performers at outside linebacker as of late has been Thomas Keiser, a third-year player who began the season on the Bolts’ practice squad and who before Nov. 10, had never started a game in the NFL.

- On Defense for the Bengals

Just like the Chargers, the Bengals have been hit hard on defense by injuries, but they have been thriving despite the losses of Geno Atkins, Leon Hall and Rey Maualuga. Veteran defensive back Adam Jones has stepped in to replace Hall while second-year pro Brandon Thompson has replaced Atkins as Jones is a confident and fearless performer and Thompson is a 325-pound rock who has been a team tackles leader since becoming a starter.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13321 Followers:19
11/28/2013 10:50 AM

The Cincinnati Bengals are back from a late-season bye week and ready to begin a five-game stretch to close out the AFC North.

A road win Sunday over the San Diego Chargers would go a long way to further staking their claim on the division.

The Bengals (7-4) are tied with Dallas for the worst road record in the NFL among teams with a record of .500 or better. They're 5-0 at home but 2-4 away from Paul Brown Stadium with consecutive overtime defeats in Miami and Baltimore. A third straight road loss Sunday would allow either Baltimore or Pittsburgh to creep within a game of the division lead after they play this week.

A victory would leave Cincinnati in a much more comfortable position, up two games with four to play and the only road game in that span coming at Pittsburgh.

"We have five games to really make a run and put our name out there," wide receiver Marvin Jones said. "The bye week was a big help. I've never had a late bye week like that. We're ready to make this last push and go for it all."

That push begins with a healthy middle linebacker. Rey Maualuga missed the last three games with a concussion and an injured left knee, but he has been practicing this week and is expected to play.

The Bengals entered the bye in high spirits after their 41-20 home win over Cleveland on Nov. 17. Their 31-point second quarter set a franchise record, and all three phases contributed to the scoring - two touchdowns on offense, one on a fumble recovery by the defense, one off a blocked punt return and a field goal.

The offense, however, has been on a disturbing trend, held below 270 total yards in three straight games.

Andy Dalton has thrown eight interceptions in that span, including two in the first quarter to the Browns that led to a 13-0 hole.

"Everybody throws interceptions from time to time," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. "If you're going to play quarterback, you're going to throw an interception from time to time. You can't dwell on it, you've got to move on and figure out a way to win the game.

"... But obviously eight interceptions in three weeks is too many."

Dalton's 15 picks are tied for third in the league, though he also enters Week 13 as one of six quarterbacks with over 20 touchdown passes (21). He wasn't sacked against Cleveland after going down 10 times in the previous two games, but his 93 passing yards marked the first time this year he was held under 200. He's completed 47.4 percent of his throws in the last two games after connecting on 64.8 percent in the first nine.

The Chargers are one of six AFC teams at 5-6 and looking to gain footing in the race for the last wild-card spot. They play four of their last five games at home, though that hasn't meant a lot recently. They're 5-7 at Qualcomm Stadium since the start of 2012.

A 41-38 win at Kansas City last Sunday ended a three-game losing streak. Philip Rivers connected with Seyi Ajirotutu on a 26-yard touchdown with 24 seconds remaining to complete a game-winning and potentially season-salvaging drive.

"It's the kind of win that can save the season," Rivers said. "That doesn't mean it saved it, but it certainly kept it alive."

San Diego would welcome its defense to do some of the saving going forward. The Chargers have allowed 29.0 points per game in the last four weeks, which ranks 27th in the league.

They're allowing an AFC-worst 389.5 yards per game.

"We've made changes before," first-year coach Mike McCoy said. "We're going to let the DBs compete this week and we'll find out what we think is the best combination for us. We're going to do what's best moving forward."

That could just be relying on Rivers, given the Dec. 1 date of the game. Since becoming the starter in 2006, Rivers is 26-5 with a 99.5 passer rating in December. The win total is tops in the league in that time and the rating trails only Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

The Bengals, however, have won their last two games against Rivers and the Chargers, both of which came in December.

San Diego leading rusher Ryan Mathews left last Sunday's game with a hamstring injury but is listed as probable.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13321 Followers:19
11/29/2013 03:20 PM

Already facing scrutiny from a poor three-game stretch, Cincinnati's redemption song is brewing. And it might be needed as their defense faces one of the league's top passing games. Since Leon Hall's season-ending injury against the Detroit Lions, the Bengals passing defense has only allowed 166.8 yards passing per game, with 16 total sacks over the last four and five interceptions in the last two.

Yet, the passing defense has only beaten names like Geno Smith, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco and Jason Campbell. Suggesting that Cincinnati's passing defense has played well is accurate, but lacking the context of their opposition (and the weather).

A more accurate judgement will come this weekend against Philip Rivers, who has completed over 70 percent of his passes and is on pace for 4,917 yards (a career high) and 32 touchdowns. If at some point he records a game with 390 yards passing, he'll be the first in NFL history to do it five times in a season.

"He's playing very confident," said head coach Marvin Lewis on Wednesday. "The thing I see him doing is running for first downs, and extending drives probably more than I have ever seen him do. It started off in the first ballgame of the year against the Texans. He's doing that more than I have ever seen him do in his career."

Wide receiver Keenan Allen (50 receptions, 737 yards, three touchdowns) should be in rookie of the year discussions. Danny Woodhead is leading NFL running backs in most reception categories and Eddie Royal is having one of his best seasons yet. Lewis remains cognitive of San Diego's threat against his defense.

"They’re running the football with three different backs, hard-running backs. Ryan Mathews runs hard. Danny Woodhead has done a great job. Ronnie Brown really is a complement to everything they do with their offense," said Lewis. "Then you go to their receiving corps, and Keenan Allen has really emerged as a young player, very productive, big yards per catch. Antonio Gates and the other tight end, (Ladarius) Green, have done a nice job for them. They are really doing a good job, and this is probably for Eddie Royal one of the most productive years he's had in the NFL."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13321 Followers:19
11/30/2013 05:53 PM

The Bengals won’t have guard Kevin Zeitler (foot) for the second straight week and they’re waiting to see how linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s ankle does after an injury in Friday’s practice. Linebacker Ray Maualuga (knee) is set to return to the lineup.

The jury is still out on questionable Chargers linebacker Jarret Johnson (hand), wide receiver Eddie Royal (toe, chest) and safety Darrell Stuckey (concussion). Running back Ryan Mathews is good to go after a Week 12 hamstring injury.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0