The playoffs have come three weeks early as the Bengals of Cincinnati prowl into the urban jungles of San Diego in search of a Playoff birth! The Bengals know their road to the playoffs and a first round bye is through the hot San Diego Chargers who are trying to extend their NFL record 16 game December win streak, and their 8 game current win streak.
The following post is a contribution from Curtis Egan of BoltTalk fame:
This week I thought I would take a look around the interwebs and see who else is out there rooting for the Chargers and writing about them. Of course one of the first places I stopped was at BOLTHYPE, where fellow Charger Fanatic Rob Zepeda has been running his own blog, forum and Chargers news site for over three years. He has done some fabulous work, and was one of the first bloggers to be invited to the Chargers training camp as a media representative.
So after a brief discussion, a round of Rochambeau, and the secret Chargers fan hand shake, Rob and I decided we are going to tag team this preview of the San Diego Chargers vs. the Cincinnati Bengals for you.
Rob having won two rounds of Rochambeau (Scissors! Why do you vex me so!) snatched up the Chargers ‘En Fuego’ Offense, and the Bengals ‘smothering’ Defense, leaving me with the Bengals ‘high powered’ offense and the Chargers ‘ever improving’ Defense. I hope you enjoy this where ever you might be viewing this from; BOLTHYPE, BoltTalk, or any other place.
The playoffs have come three weeks early as the Cincinnati Bengals arrive in San Diego to face the red hot Chargers. The Bengals know their road to the playoffs and a first round bye is through the hot San Diego Chargers who are trying to extend their NFL record 16 game December win streak, and their 8 game current win streak.
The game will feature Chad “Don’t call me Johnson” Ochocinco against Shawne “Lights out” Merriman. If the twitter war of the preseason is to be remembered, they promised to go at one another as if in the boxing ring. It will have to wait for Sunday to see which one will get to deliver the knock out blow.
One thing is certain; this should be an entertaining game. Both teams are good, and both teams can put points on the board. Both teams can cement a playoff position with a win, while Cincinnati can clinch their division with an upset over the Chargers.
BENGALS ON OFFENSE
Face it; these cats are a real threat to the December win streak, and the momentum the Chargers are creating. To put it simply they come into town with the 6th best rushing attack in the league in regards to yards per game. They are going against our defense that while it has improved against the run, still ranks 21st in rushing yards allowed per game. Add on top of that a very dangerous Quarterback in Carson Palmer, and Ron Rivera’s defenders are going to have their work cut out for them this week.
The Bengals have arguably stumbled offensively of late, they rank 20th in over all, their passing game has faltered somewhat of late, currently ranking 23rd in passing yards per game. This would appear to pave the way for a showdown of their offensive strength against our defensive weakness; their running attack vs. our run defense.
Also looking at their Offensive line, while a little banged up, they have been playing well. In the last game, against the Vikings who lead the league in sacks, the Bengals offensive line gave up only one sack. On the year, their offensive line ranks 9th in the league only giving up 23 sacks and allowing Palmer to be hit 50 times.
The Bengals have been forced to rotate their offensive line, against the Vikings they worked with Anthony Collins and Ray Edwards took the passing Downs, while Andre Smith and Dennis Roland played on first and second downs. This rotation seemed to work well, and kept the offensive linemen of the Bengals fresh deep into the game against the Vikings.
Knowing how Ron Rivera likes to pressure the Quarterback with various blitzes, this could be one of the best lines vs. our blitzing scheme we have seen this season. Rivera and company will have to find ways to overload the offensive line while keeping pressure down the field on dangerous receivers like Ochocinco, who is just 63 yards away from another 1000 yard receiving season, and Laveranues Coles, who is second on the Bengals for receiving yards.
I look for the returning Eric Weddle to help provide some run defense close up on the line, that means that Chargers Cornerbacks, Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie are going to be playing more press coverage and staying close to the receivers.
The key Matchup: This is going to be how the Chargers Linebackers defend the run against Cedric Benson and Fullback Jeremi Johnson.
Key Note: The Bengals have not lost back to back games this season.
CHARGERS ON DEFENSE
The Chargers Defense has been exciting to watch through their 8 game winning streak. In their last game the Chargers defense held the Dallas Cowboys to just one 3rd down conversion in 8 tries. This included one of the best goal line stands I have seen from any defense in a long time. The Chargers Defense is playing with excitement and tenacity right now, and they are going to need every bit of it against a dangerous Bengals Offensive unit!
The Chargers started the season at the bottom of the league statistically in defense, but over the past 9 games they have quietly climbed up the ladder to be the leagues 12th ranked defensive unit. They are 10th in passing yards allowed per game, and 9th in sacks totaling 31 on the season (tied with the Bengals of all teams!)
However as aforementioned, the big test for the Defense, in my opinion will be the run. The Chargers are arguably better than their 21st ranking against the run shows. They have shown a tendency to on one drive give up some runs play after play, and then close it down on the next drive. Against the Cowboys at one point it seemed like the Cowboys would be able to run the ball at will, then the Chargers Linebackers began blitzing the run, and stopping the runner behind the line of scrimmage.
Stopping the Bengals ground attack is easier typed than done however. Benson rushed against a formidable Vikings run defense gaining (ranked 4th in the league) for 96 yards on 16 carries. That said, the Bengals have been less that disciplined of late, they drew 11 penalties for 85 yards in their last game. As Charger fans we have seen first hand how a yellow hanky on the grass can derail even the best drives.
Against Minnesota, Cincinnati ran a largely balance offensive attack consisting of 28 passing plays and 24 running plays, however this only resulted in 7 passing first downs and 4 rushing first downs. The Chargers will have to keep those numbers low. Keeping Palmer, Benson and Ochocinco on the bench is the best way to defend this dangerous trio.
The key Matchup: I have to think that the defensive line will have to plug the gaps. The 3-4 defensive scheme the Chargers employ relies on the defensive linemen to plug the running lanes to free up the linebackers to attack. The Linemen will have to be on top of their game to accomplish this, this weekend against a very good Bengals offensive line.
Key Note: The Chargers are currently 16-0 in December with Rivers at Quarterback. 11 of those December wins came under current head Coach Norv Turner. While having a hot Rivers in December is a great thing, it will take a strong defensive showing to take this game from a hungry Bengals team.
Predictions: A close game, one that has many of us on the edge of our seats. Charger 27, Bengals 24.
Part 2 of this game preview coming soon!
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