Another key to a Bengals victory is their pass rush.
San Diego has struggled with the running game all year. Ryan Mathews is a solid back, and has a lot of potential in space. He actually recalls some memories of Darren Sproles’ running form, as he is often used in screens and on half-back runs to the outside gaps.
However, the Chargers’ play-calling has been angled towards the pass attack of Philip Rivers this season. Rivers has been average, but the Chargers rely on his play more than anyone else on the team. If he has a good game, the Bolts can be explosive. Which is why the Bengals need to be able to put effective pressure on him through all four quarters.
Cincinnati’s coverage in the secondary has become steadily better, and finds itself ranked eighth against the pass. This bodes well for the Bengals, as their strong play allows Mike Zimmer to dial up the linebacker blitzes that he likes to use. The cornerbacks have been very convincing in man coverage, as the once injury-plagued position has become one of the Bengals’ clear strengths.
So the rankings actually favor the Bengals in this match-up. Cincinnati’s slightly pass-oriented play-calling should worry the Chargers sub-par pass defense, while they use it to open up the running game. And the while the Chargers’ strength is in Rivers’ arm, the Bengals’ pass defense has also become its defensive backbone.
The Bengals win this game because of their defense. It should be a close match-up, but Cincinnati will stay hot on the road to keep the winning streak alive.
Prediction: Bengals 23, Chargers 17