Who: #6 seed San Diego Chargers (9-7) vs. #3 seed Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
What: AFC Wild Card
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
When: Sunday, January 5th at 1:05 PM ET
TV Channel: CBS
The San Diego Chargers travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals’ talented offense and physical defense. Both teams have something to prove in this postseason game. The Chargers are back in the playoffs after a three-year drought. But on the other side, Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game in over 20 years. San Diego has won its last four games and hopes to extend its winning streak on the road. But, the Bengals won’t give up without a fight in front of their home crowd.
Both teams boast a quality passing game that has been their “bread and butter” all year long. Quarterback Philip Rivers leads the NFL’s No. 4-ranked passing offense, which has a multitude of weapons on the field. One of the unexpected standouts is Keenan Allen, who is having a very solid rookie season. Allen is first on the team with 1,046 receiving yards and tied for first with eight touchdowns. Not to mention, Antonio Gates, Eddie Royal and Danny Woodhead each have over 600 receiving yards on the season. This dynamic offense will hope to execute its game plan against a stingy Cincy defense.
The Bengals won the AFC North for the first time since 2009. Big wins against Green Bay, New England, and Indianapolis propelled Cincinnati into its division’s driver’s seat. One of the main reasons for the Bengals’ success was their defense’s ability to make major plays in crucial moments. The Bengals rank fifth in the league in passing yards allowed and rushing yards allowed. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is tied for third in the country and leads the team with 114 tackles. Also, veteran leadership from James Harrison has taken this defense to another level. Head Coach Marvin Lewis hopes the defense can create mistakes for the Chargers and make a major impact on this game.
Can San Diego come into town and put up points in front of a tough environment? Or will Cincinnati end their playoff victory drought and advance to face the Patriots?
Let’s take a look at analysis from some great bloggers:
“The wide spread isn’t exactly surprising. Marvin Lewis’ squad went 11-5 on the season but was an unstoppable 8-0 at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals also went into San Diego and beat the Chargers 17-10 in Week 13.
But don’t overlook Mike McCoy’s team. The Bolts travel extremely well, having beaten the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos on the road, and they won four in a row to sneak into the postseason.”
“San Diego’s ability to run the ball and keep the Bengals’ talented offense off the field is going to make this game much closer than people expect, but I can’t pick against Cincinnati at home—even with the way the Chargers have played on the road.”
Prediction: San Diego 21, Cincinnati 24
“Overall, the more I dig into the the first 12 games of the season, the more I see a different team emerging. They are 4-0 since losing to Cincinnati, thanks to some adjustments by the coaching staff. They are running the ball better, controlling the time of possession, and putting the defense in a better position to succeed.”
“They are limiting what Philip Rivers has to do, but he is still capable of winning a shootout. Mike McCoy has taken (and deserves) a lot of criticism so far, but he has done a nice job of taking a 5-7 team and making the right adjustments to lift them through the end of the season and into the postseason. The Bengals may have defeated the Chargers a month ago, but they will be getting a different team come Sunday.”
“The Bengals, with their 34 or more points per game at home over their last five contest and their undefeated streak at home, are certainly favorites over the Chargers. However, Andy Dalton’s inconsistency as a passer compared to Philip Rivers’ outstanding season could turn this game into a shootout, which the San Diego quarterback could use to his advantage.
However, the Bengals are the hot team right now, even if they are flying under the radar. All signs point to the Bengals ending their playoff wins drought since 1990 and heading to Foxboro in the AFC’s Divisional Round.”
The quarterback matchup between Philip Rivers and Andy Dalton will be very important to watch out for on Sunday. Both QBs have had troubles with inconsistency in the passing game due to occasional errant throws. Whoever throws interceptions early in the game could hurt their team late in the game. Both teams will come prepared to the field, but the team that executes their coaches’ game plan will have the advantage.
Aaron Siegal-Eisman (@ASiegalEisman) is a regular contributor of NCAAM, NCAAF and NFL coverage to the movoli blog.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in movoli blogs are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of movoli.
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