Preview

Bengals vs Chargers

On paper, it's easy to see why the Bengals are favored against the Chargers. The Bengals were 8-0 at home this season and racked up a +141 point differential in the process. They beat the Chargers, 17-10, in San Diego and won five of their last six games. But nothing is as easy as it seems for the Bengals in the playoffs.

Cincinnati hasn't won a playoff game since 1990 and is 0-4 under Marvin Lewis, including two home losses. While Andy Dalton has been solid during the regular season -- averaging 7.0 yards per attempt with a 85.7 passer rating -- he's been a disaster in the playoffs. Dalton is yet to throw a touchdown in two postseason games. He's averaged just 5.3 YPA in the postseason with a passer rating of 48.6. Philip Rivers has been up-and-down during his postseason career, but has a 3-4 record and led the Chargers to a huge upset win on the road against Indianapolis in 2007.

If the Chargers are going to pull an upset this year, they'll have to do it against a very good Bengals defense. Cincinnati's defense finished second in yards per play, yards per pass attempt and third-down conversion rate. San Diego's offense fared well in all three categories, finishing fifth in yards per play, fourth in yards per pass attempt and first in third-down conversion rate. Something will have to give on Sunday.

Mark Sandritter

The Bengals will win because

Cincinnati has already defeated the San Diego Chargers once this season, a 17-10 win in Week 13. While the Chargers are playing well, the Bengals have won nine straight home games and 18 of their last 25 overall (regular season and playoffs). The Bengals defense has been the catalyst for Cincinnati's successes this year. Never more so than last week, when they neutralized four offensive turnovers and still secured a 17-point win over the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens, who needed a win for an opportunity to make the postseason.

The Chargers will win because

They shouldn’t. This team finished 7-9 last season for a reason; They’re not very talented. However, they’re well coached and they play their best when they’re heavy underdogs. They win when they shouldn’t. They’ve won games this year against the Eagles, Colts, Chiefs and Broncos, after being the heavy underdog in each one of them. Also, they’ve won every “second matchup” they’ve played this season against divisional opponents. The coaching staff is good at learning from mistakes and improving upon them. This game between the Chargers and Bengals has all the makings of San Diego’s upset over the Broncos on Thursday Night Football, with everyone betting against the Chargers and then wondering how they got the win in the end.

Number of interest

30

The Cincinnati Bengals might be 8-0 at home this season, but the San Diego Chargers are 8-0 when Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead combine for 30+ touches. They bring balance to the San Diego offense, with Mathews being the powerful runner and Woodhead being the RB/WR that can do a number of things when he’s on the field, and they’re arguably the two best playmakers on the team. Ken Whisenhunt figured out this stat and rode it to four consecutive wins to end the season.

Picks

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