San Diego vs Cincinnati NFL Playoff Handicapping
After sneaking into the postseason, the Chargers will have to get past the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in a AFC Wildcard Playoff game.
When: Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 at 1:05 p.m. EST
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
LINE: -7 (Bengals), O/U 47
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Cincinnati itself snuck past the Chargers back on December 1, in San Diego, walking away with a 17-10 win. However, it will need to take much better care of the ball this time around after coughing it up twice in the prior meeting.
Once again led by quarterback Philip Rivers, who completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 4,478 yards with 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this year, San Diego has chance at redeeming itself after having failed to advance in the postseason over the past two years, with two straight losses.
Nevertheless, the Chargers (9-7) will not only need a good outing from Rivers, but will rely heavily on the services of running back Ryan Mathews who had his best season rushing for 1,255 yards.
A receiving crops made up of Danny Woodhead and a healthy Antonio Gates who had 77 receptions, has also put the Chargers in their best position in several seasons to make a deep playoff rum.
And although the offense is scoring just an average of 24.8 points per game, it is fifth best in the NFL with 393.3 yards per game and fourth in the NFL In passing yards at 270.5 per game.
Defensively, San Diego is allowing 21.8 points and 366.5 yards per game, and is led by Eric Weddle with 115 tackles.
The Chargers will be tested against the Bengals however, who won the AFC North this season.
Cincinnati (11-5) averages 26.9 points and 368.4 yards per game, behind an offense piloted by quarterback Andy Dalton, who seems to get better every year. The third-year gunslinger completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 4,296 yards with 33 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2013.
But as good as Dalton’s been, he’s gotten a lot of help from the Bengals two-headed rushing attack, which is fueled by BenJarvus Gren-Ellis, who has rushed for 756 yards, and Giovanni Bernard who has rambled for 695 yards, while catching 56 passes out of the backfield.
The passing game has also gotten a boost from receiver A.J. Green, who had a monster year catching 96 passes for 1,426 yards.
On the other side of the football, the Bengals got a huge lift from Vontaze Burfict, who has piled up 171 tackles and three sacks, for a defensive unit that allow just 19.1 points per game and a third best in the NFL 305.5 yards per game. As a group, they have tallied 43 sacks and 20 interceptions
Matt’s Free Prediction
When the Bengals and the Chargers met earlier this season, San Diego turned the ball over three times.
The Bengals captioned and controlled the second half in that one, sacking Rivers twice. Cincy also outrushed the Chargers 164-91, but the Chargers led the passing stats 243-190.
The team with the better defense is my pick in this one, and since the Cincinnati defense didn’t rank worse than fifth in any defensive category this year, I expect them to pull out a win here.
Bengals 28, Chargers 21