I am very concerned about this game. Not because of the team the Bengals are playing, but because of where and when the Bengals are playing – on the West Coast and off a bye week. Why? Because Marvin Lewis is 6-11 on the West Coast and has an embarrassing 3-6-1 record following a bye week. It may sound crazy, but I believe this to be a “must win” game for the Bengals. A win would put the Bengals at 8-4, it would maintain their 2 game lead over Baltimore with just 4 to play and it would make 10 wins very obtainable.
With Baltimore @Detriot, home against New England and @Cincinnati in their last 3 games, I don’t see them being able to get to 10 wins. A loss, however, would cut the Bengals lead to just one game, leave them at 7-5, and with a tough remaining schedule (Indy, @Pittsburch, Minnesota, Baltimore), 10 wins may not be plausible for the Bengals, therefore, a one game lead could leave the division up for grabs.
So, with this big West Coast trip to look forward to, here is What to Look For….
When the Chargers Run the Ball:
Chargers Running Attack: 17th – 110.8 ypg
Bengals Run Defense: 10th – 102.0 ypg
While the Chargers run game is average at best (17th), they feature a two back system that can create problems for defenses. For the first time in his career, Ryan Mathews is healthy and has played in every one of his team’s games. While he is not having the type of year the Chargers envisioned when they drafted him 12th overall in 2010, with 721 yards, 4.4 ypc and 3 TDs, Mathews is having a productive year. The back that scares me more, however, is Danny Woodhead. Woodhead doesn’t scare me as much in the run game (266 yards, 3.8 ypc, 2 TDs) as he does in the passing game (59 receptions, 469 yards, 5 TDS).
Woodhead is tied for the team lead in receptions (59) and his speed, quickness and route running ability coming out of the backfield presents a problem for the line backers and safeties that are tasked with trying to cover him – and covering running backs and tight ends have never been a strength of the Bengals. Even with Burfict’s injury on Friday, I am comfortable with the Bengals ability to shut down the Chargers run game, but I do worry about their ability to cover the running backs coming out of the backfield.