Bengals vs. Chargers: What to Watch For

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Dec 1, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) carries the ball in the 4th quarter during the Chargers 17-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Liu-USA TODAY Sports

When the Chargers Throw the Ball:

Chargers Passing Attack: 4th – 270.5 ypg

Bengals Pass Defense: 5th – 209.0 ypg

Philip Rivers led the NFL with a 69.5% completion and in the four games since they last played, Rivers is 4-0 with 9 TDs and 2 INTs. Keenan Allen (71 receptions, 1,046 yards, 8 TDS) looks to be a legit #1 receiver and Eddie Royal (47 rec, 631 yards, 8 TDs) presents Rivers with a top notch slot receiver.

One dimension the Bengals did not see much of in San Diego was Danny Woodhead. Woodhead led all RBs with 76 receptions, but only caught 2 passes for 13 yards in their first matchup. With the projected weather on Sunday, I would expect to see Woodhead more involved in the short passing game.

With his speed, quickness and route running ability coming out of the backfield, Woodhead presents a problem for the line backers and safeties that are tasked with trying to cover him (especially Maualuga).

The addition of new weapons, combined with a line that ranks 4th in surrendering sacks (30) has sparked the Chargers passing attack from 24th in 2012 to 4th in 2013 and back into the playoffs for the first time in years.

In their first matchup, Rivers had a decent game (252 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT), however, it is worth noting that the Bengals defense held Rivers to his lowest rating of the year (80.0), his 3rd lowest completion percentage of the year (62.2%) and were 1 of 5 teams against whom Rivers did not have a TD/INT ratio above 1.

The Bengals will rely on the success of their defense against QBs in the Jungle in 2013. In 8 home games (including the likes of Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Brady and Luck), the Bengals have surrendered 9 TD passes to 15 INTs, an average rating of 60.1.

Just 1 QB had a rating above 73.1 (Luck – 113.1) and/or more TDs than INTs (also Luck 4-0). QBs not named Luck had an average rating of 52.2 and 5 TDs to 15 INTs when playing in Cincinnati.

Given what the Bengals defense has done to other QBs in Cincinnati, combined with a not so pass friendly forecast, I am giving the Bengals the edge here.

Advantage: Bengals