San Diego Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Preview and Prediction

Two 1-0 AFC teams meet in an early-season conference clash.

The San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals both looked impressive in their first contests of the new season. While the Chargers had to mount a significant comeback after being down 21-3 to top the Detroit Lions, things were never in doubt for the Bengals against the Raiders. 

 

That's how opening weeks can go, and it's important not to read too much into things good or bad in the first week of the season, but what's clear is that both teams have potent offenses that can score a bunch of points in a hurry.

 

These are two teams with some of the best talent in the NFL and both will be in the conversation for the playoffs at the end of the year. Keenan Allen (15 catches, 166 yards for the Chargers) and Tyler Eifert (9 catches, 104 yards and two TDs for Bengals) led their respective teams in Week 1 and will be targets for the defenses in this matchup.

 

Both teams are looking to improve to 2-0 and gain a valuable tie breaker in the AFC playoff standings.

 

San Diego at Cincinnati

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET

Channel: CBS

Line: Bengals -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Picking Poison: Tyler Eifert or A.J. Green

The Raiders had a successful day as far as limiting star receiver A.J. Green to just five catches for 63 yards, but the focus on him opened up things for Eifert who was a forgotten man this season after being lost in Week 1 last year. The Chargers realize they can't allow the same thing to happen, but Eifert is just the complimentary piece the Bengals have been missing, a role Jermaine Gresham never quite lived up to. There's no simple solution but it's only a matter of time before Green gets his catches. Stopping this duo should be the top concern for the Chargers.

 

2. Slowing Down Keenan Allen

The Bengals have one of the most talented defenses in the NFL, with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap leading the way. Getting pressure on Philip Rivers is a huge key and not an easy task given Rivers' ability to make tough throws under duress. The key piece for the Chargers has to be Keenan Allen, one of the brightest young star receivers in the game today. Allen was targeted an astonishing 17 times against the Lions, making it clear how much Rivers likes and trusts him. If the Bengals can eliminate Allen from the game, it will force Rivers to beat them with lesser-trusted targets like Stevie Johnson and Ladarius Green.

 

3. Which Ground Game Gets Going?

Neither team's running game was particularly impressive in the first week of the season and the Chargers have taken another hit with the loss of right guard DJ Fluker. The Bengals mounted 31 carries for 127 yards (4.1 avg) while the Chargers had 30 carries for just 95 yards (3.2 avg), but there are talented pieces who can be explosive in spots. With so much focus on the passing game, this game will likely be decided in the trenches by which team has more success pounding the rock.

 

Final Analysis

 

These are two similar teams with the Chargers having a slight edge at quarterback and the Bengals having a slight edge on defense. Those two groups will likely offset each other, setting the stage for Andy Dalton to determine the outcome. If the Bengals can establish Jeremy Hill on the ground, it will make Dalton's life a lot easier, but if either team is forced to lean entirely on their passing game, they'll likely be headed home with a loss. The Bengals are at home and filled with confidence after a convincing performance on the road against the Raiders. The Chargers will have their work cut out for them.

 

Prediction: Bengals 28, Chargers 17

 

— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of PatsPropaganda.com (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.

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