Bengals vs Chargers Preview: Can the Bengals Pull off a Victory Against All Odds?

Injuries, match-ups, keys to the game and our prediction.

AP Photo

After a rough game against the Broncos, the Bengals travel to Los Angeles to take on Philip Rivers and the red-hot Chargers. With losses and injuries continuing to pile up, Cincinnati’s playoff hopes are virtually over after a promising  4-1 start to the season.

A Look Back

The Bengals (5-7) had their hopes erased last Sunday when they fell to the Denver Broncos by the score of 24-10. Jeff Driskel looked uncomfortable in his first NFL start, and a conservative offensive game plan didn’t help. Bobby Hart and Alex Redmond continued to prove why they’re some of the worst offensive lineman in the league, racking up holding and false start penalties on every single drive. The defense played well but fell apart in the 3rd quarter, giving up two touchdowns which sealed the game for Denver. The team looked completely uninterested and undisciplined, which should absolutely fall on the coaches.

The Chargers (9-3) are coming off of an impressive primetime win over the Steelers, even without star running back Melvin Gordon. After being down 23-7 at the half, Los Angeles scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to come back and secure the win. Although the Bengals are completely out of the playoff picture, it always feels good to watch the Steelers lose.

Injury Updates

A.J. Green re-injured his foot against the Broncos, ending his season. The Bengals have been decimated by injuries this season, losing players every week. Starting tackle Cordy Glenn has missed the past two games, and Dre Kirkpatrick and Vontaze Burfict both missed practice on Wednesday. Joe Mixon hasn’t had a full practice this week, which is also concerning.

Aside from Melvin Gordon, backup tight end Sean Culkin is the only other player who showed up on the injury report for Los Angeles. Gordon is officially not going to play on Sunday, however I don’t know if it’s going to be enough to help the Bengals pull off the upset.

Important Matchups

John Ross vs. Derwin James – One of the best rookies of 2018 has been safety Derwin James. He was the 17th overall pick, and he immediately justified his high selection. He has made plays all season, and is currently the 4th best safety in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. John Ross has been great at finding the endzone this year, scoring 5 touchdowns on just 16 catches. If Jeff Driskel can connect with Ross on a few deep shots, the offense might be able to keep up.

William Jackson III vs. Keenan Allen – Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen is having another great year, totaling 996 yards and 5 touchdowns. He has been Philip Rivers’ favorite target, and the Bengals need to make sure that he doesn’t go off. With Dre Kirkpatrick’s game status up in the air, the duty falls on William Jackson to keep Allen in check.

Defensive Line vs. Philip Rivers – On the Bengals 5-year playoff streak from 2011-2015, one of the strengths of that team was the defensive line. Therefore it’s puzzling that they’ve played terrible this year, especially considering that the unit is made up of the same exact players. The linebackers have been putrid this year, but when you have the worst statistical defense in the league everyone deserves some of the blame.

Joe Mixon vs. Corey Liuget – The Chargers defense is exceptional, but they do have their weaknesses. One of these is the interior of the defensive line. The Bengals should give the ball to Mixon early and often if they have any hope of winning this game. The best way to stop an opposing offense is to keep them on the sidelines, so running the ball and slowing down the game should be a priority. Mixon had another solid game against the Broncos last week, rushing for 82 yards on just 12 carries. However, the Bengals had to abandon the run game when offensive line penalties kept pushing the ball back.

Keys to Victory

Play Malik Jefferson – Jordan Evans, Vontaze Burfict and Hardy Nickerson rank as the 71st, 72nd and 77th best linebackers in the league according to PFF. The fact that they continue to get playing time over Malik Jefferson is absolutely ridiculous. When the Texas linebacker was drafted by the Bengals in the 3rd round of this years draft, many fans assumed he would get significant playing time at some point during the year. With the season basically over, it couldn’t

hurt to give the young linebacker valuable playing time. It can’t get any worse, right?

Contain Joey Bosa – After racking up 12.5 sacks last year, defensive end Joey Bosa missed the first 10 weeks of this season with a foot injury. He hasn’t missed a beat since coming back in week 11, accumulating 3 sacks in 3 games. Going up against Bobby Hart, the Bengals need to get the ball out of Jeff Driskel’s hands fast. Using a running back or another offensive lineman to contain Bosa would be smart, because there’s no way that Hart can handle him on his own.

Game Prediction

This game is going to be ugly. Unless Jeff Driskel turns into Patrick Mahomes overnight, the Bengals offense is going to be stagnant. Without Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert the days of scoring 30+ points appear to be over. Joe Mixon should have a few good runs, but it’s going to be a surprise if he receives more than 20 rushing attempts.

The defense is going to have to step up, but it doesn’t seem likely. The Chargers have multiple offensive weapons, and the defense is going to have trouble keeping up. Playing an away game on the west coast certainly doesn’t help.

My Prediction

Bengals – 14

Chargers – 28

Although losses are always tough to handle, it’s important to remember that draft position is improving with each one. Additionally, it means that fans are one step closer to seeing Marvin Lewis finally fired from his head coaching position. Hopefully.

Written by Zach Bachar

New Yorker, college student, lifelong Bengals fanatic. WHODEY!

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