If you were to guess one team that would allow a 4th and very, very long to get converted what would that team be? If you didn’t guess the Chargers, that’s okay, when you were told it was them you probably shook your head and said “yeah, I should have known”. This came to fruition last week, as the Chargers didn’t along just a 4th and long, they allowed 4th and another area code. With the Ravens facing a 4th and 29 with seconds remaining down by 3, quarterback Joe Flacco calmly dumped off a pass to Ray Rice across the middle. Looked harmless enough, but Rice ended up rumbling for 29 yards to pick up the first down. The play was filled with porous tackling and head scratching angles taken by Charger defenders. Of course, the Ravens ultimately went on to make a field goal to tie the game up 13-16 and win it in overtime. It essentially summed up the San Diego Chargers whole season up in just a few seconds. The Cincinnati Bengals on the other hand are feeling pretty good after handling the Raiders easily, 34-10.
The Bengals are one of those fringe teams, the talent is there, but they haven’t made it over that hump yet. After qualifying for the playoffs last season, many were expecting the Bengals to take another giant leap forward under second year quarterback Andy Dalton. It isn’t like they have taken a step back in this sense, but they are still just an average team. Dalton isn’t in the same class at Brady, Rodgers, Manning, Brees, or other elite signal callers, but he does have the talent to give the Bengals a chance at being a legitimate threat in their division. Dalton has passed for 2769 yards with 23 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions in 2012. That adds up for an impressive 94.0 QB rating. His last three games have been the most impressive, as he has thrown 9 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The passing game now ranks 12th in the NFL, with the offense as a whole rounding out at 13th, scoring a pretty impressive 25.6 points a game.
While the offense has been fairly impressive of late, what has really shined is the defense. In their last three games the most anybody has scored on them is 13 against the Giants in week 10. There is nothing special about the teams they played the last two weeks, Raiders and Chiefs, but this Chargers offense is having a fair share of problems themselves. The Bengals defense currently is the 9th best in the league and has flown under the radar all season long. They only allow opposing quarterbacks to pass for an average of 218.4 yards per game. If the Chargers want to get back on track and pick up a much needed victory here, they will need to get the running game going with Ryan Mathews.
There hasn’t been much to gloat about with the Chargers’ passing game under Philip Rivers this season. For a team that should be relying on Rivers, being the 18th best passing team in the NFL is inexcusable. It doesn’t help that Vincent Jackson headed for the door and took a big contract in Tampa, leaving Rivers with not much to work with. Antonio Gates figured to have a big comeback year, but it appears he has checked out from this sinking ship. Gates has only 368 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns. The running game has been an afterthought as well. When the Chargers traded up to draft Mathews I think they were expecting a back that could take games over, along the same lines as former Charger LaDainian Tomlinson.
Bengals vs. Chargers Spread and Betting Odds:
Cincinnati Bengals -1 (-115)
@ San Diego Chargers +1 (-105)
Over 46.5 (-110)
Under 46.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Bengals vs. Chargers Pick:
If you tailed me on my Chargers +1 bet over the Ravens last week I apologize. Trust me, I was just as frustrated as all you were. That combined with the OVER in the Packers/Giants game that failed to hit after 41 first half points was as frustrating as a day as they come in sports wagering. However, when you’ve been around betting for as long as I have, a few of those games will creep up on you here and there.
Needless to say, I am done putting money on the dysfunctional Chargers. They obviously have issues far and wide. From the coaching to the offense they have been an absolute mess. I give the defense of the Chargers a lot of credit, they have hung in there and played tough football regardless of their lost leader, Philip Rivers. The defense will have to work without safeties Darrell Stuckey and Atari Bigby in this, though. A key hole in the defense that Andy Dalton should be able to exploit with ease. I think the loss last week was a dagger into the Chargers’ season, and subsequently, Norv Turner’s job as head coach of the Chargers. This one should stay tight, but I expect the Bengals to capture this critical game by about 3-7 points.
PICK = Bengals -1