The Cincinnati Bengals need a playoff win in the worst sort of way (especially Marvin and Dalton). Another first-round exit could whip up enough social media and talk show visceral to make me walk around town dawning noise canceling earmuffs for months.
With that being said, here is the Wild Card weekend edition of What to Look For….
Dec 12, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Matthews (24) runs with the ball during the first half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
When the Chargers Run the Ball:
Chargers Running Attack: 13th – 122.8 ypg
Bengals Run Defense: 5th – 96.5 ypg
San Diego’s run game the last few weeks has been impressive. Ryan Mathews leads the NFL with 534 rushing yards in the month of December and has three 100 yard games and 3 TDs in December as well. In fact, in the 5 weeks since the Bengals and Chargers played in San Diego, the Chargers have moved from 17th in the NFL in rushing to 13th and improved 10 YPG in that span. Lucky for the Bengals
1) it is no longer December
2) 4 of the 5 games were in SD
3) 4 of the 5 games were against terrible defenses (Oak, NYG, Den, KC)
4) his lowest total of the month (61) came against the Bengals.
However, while Mathews did not have a lot of yards in their previous matchup, he was effective when he ran, averaging 4.4 YPC. The Bengals need to limit Mathews on Sunday and try and make the Chargers offense one-dimensional and predictable.
With the way the Bengals have played against the run all year, combined with the fact that the game is in Cincinnati, I like the Bengals ability to neutralize the Chargers run game. Even though I do worry about the Bengals ability to cover the running backs coming out of the backfield, I still give the nod to the Bengals.