Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chargers vs. Bengals

If the Chargers don't experience a let down this week, they should beat the Cincinatti Bengals at home. The Bengals pose some unique challenges for San Diego, with a strong running game and defense, but once again it's hard to see how the Cincinatti defense can contend with all the Chargers' weapons.

Cincinatti has two of the best cornerbacks in the league in Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph. They may be able to take away the outside passing game and the deep game. This will actually be an interesting challenge for the Chargers' huge wide receivers: How do they match-up against two fast, capable corners? Will they be able use their height advantage against these guys?

Even if the Bengals are able to shut down Jackson and Floyd, it's unclear how they're going to cover Antonio Gates. Against other opponents, Cincinatti attempted to cover the tight end or slot receiver with linebacker Ray Maualuga. While he's a strong run defender (I wish the Chargers would have drafted him) who is a big part of the Bengals' success this season, he's just not fast enough to keep up with Gates, Naanee, and Sproles. Look for one or all three of these guys to have big days catching passes across the middle and out of the backfield.

On the other side of the ball, the Bengals have shown a bruising running game with Cedric Benson and not much passing. They haven't scored a lot of points this season, but have played great defense and controlled the clock on offense. I don't think that formula will work today. With Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, some think the Bengals should be able to explode at any time, but it just hasn't happened this year and it's unlikely to change this late in the season. Some have theorized that Carson Palmer's arm isn't healthy, others that the offensive line, while strong in the running game, can't pass block well. Whatever the cause, the Bengals will have trouble keeping up with the Chargers in scoring today.

The X factor today will be the Bengals' emotional state with the loss of Chris Henry. Will they step up, playing the best game of their season, shutting down the Chargers? I think they will come out with furious emotion and make some plays. However, the Chargers' offense is so dynamic, teams can't beat them on emotion and aggression; they have to be smart as well. Rivers is playing at such a high level that he will capitalize on any mistake. Some Bengals may be trying to do too much today.

Chargers 24, Bengals 13

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