The Cincinnati Bengals are loose, confident, focused. And with good reason.
AJ Green, Andy Dalton and the rest of the Bengals offense are feeling the heat of poor playoff performance the past two seasons, but tomorrow’s game is gonna be decided by the eight home games that have come before it this season. DEFENSE.
The team’s 8-0 record at home is great, but their 4-0 record against Super Bowl winning quarterbacks is even better. Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers is having a better year than all of them and he’s 5-3 career when the temperature is less than 35 degrees. This is his eighth playoff appearance and has two solid road wins this season against Denver and Kansas City.
In the first meeting, the defense held Rivers and the offense to one touchdown. But the Bengals are aware of River’s arm and his pocket presence, as he has weapons to throw in rookie of the year candidate Keenan Allen, future hall of famer tight end Antonio Gates, and running back Ryan Matthews in the backfield, who the Bengals held him to 61 yards in San Diego.
Rivers and the offense have played well during their four game winning streak, hogging the ball and converting third downs at a high rate. They finished the season third in the NFL with converting 46 percent of it.
The Bengals are 2nd in the NFL stopping opponents on third down, and at PBS they are holding their opponents to 24-104 on third down (23 percent). They must keep their eye on San Diego’s offensive weapons. Especially running back Danny Woodhead, who is 2nd among running backs in the AFC with 17 catches on third down.
They did a great job on containing Woodhead to only two catches for 13 yards in San Diego and Gates turned the ball twice, which was proved costly for them.
It’s going to be vital for the Bengals front to get pressure on Rivers, because he has mobility once he gets out of the pocket.
Special teams are gonna be a big factor, the Bengals added a new punter in veteran Zoltan Mesko who has playoff experience in kicking cold weather with the New England Patriots. San Diego’s punter is the NFL leader in percentage of punts inside the 20.
PREDICTION: Bengals 19, Chargers 13. The running game is going to be the key in this one, with bad weather expecting in the forecast. BenJarvus Green-Eills and Giovanni Bernard will be featured a lot in this one. Keys: will “Good Andy” please show up for the rest of the game, run the ball efficiently, tackle on defense, pressure Rivers, stop the run and pass. And keep the crowd in the game throughout.