PRESSURE PHILIP RIVERS: Stopping Philip Rivers, who is arguably having his best season in his career, might be unrealistic but the Bengals defense will be faced with a quarterback that's in the top-ten in virtually every major passing category this year. Already with four games of 390 yards passing or more, he'll tie Dan Marino and Joe Montana for most such games in a single-season. Rivers has also recorded three games with a completion percentage of 80 percent or more, tying Brett Favre and Drew Brees for most games in a single-season.
He's having a good year.
However, if the secondary is physical and throws off San Diego's quick passing scheme, the Bengals pass rush will have a tremendous influence. When Rivers is sacked two times or more in a game, the Chargers are 1-5. Obviously when quarterbacks face pressure, their likelihood to succeed is dramatically impacted.
Rivers is no different, generating a passer rating of 50.1 under pressure, completing only 40.9 percent of his passes. Furthermore, the Bengals must give attention to Danny Woodhead and Antonio Gates, their leading receivers and two players that can bail Rivers out of pressure situations.
Be physical with the receivers, make sure Woodhead and Gates are covered and endlessly pursue Rivers in the pocket. Seems easy enough, right?
REDUCE THE OFFENSIVE MISTAKES: Cincinnati has committed at least eight penalties in each of their past two games -- six defensive penalties directly led to first downs and 10 offensive penalties have stalled drives. Considering that 17 penalties have been committed by the Bengals, that's a huge percentage that's directly leading to sustaining and stalling possessions.
Andy Dalton has thrown eight interceptions (not all his fault) and lost a fumble in the past three games, averaging three turnovers per game. Those turnovers have resulted in 27 points by Cincinnati's opponents, including two interceptions returned for a touchdown (Joe Haden, Brent Grimes).
Cincinnati's receivers (A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu) and tight ends (Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham) have combined for nine dropped passes over the last three games -- Jones the only one of that group with less than two, per Pro Football Focus.
These are focus, concentration issues; not a lack of physical ability. The hope is that the bye week was utilized to clean up Cincinnati's offense, to the point that they're not stalling drives with penalties, incomplete passes due to dropped passes or turning the ball over.
GET OFF TO AN EARLY START: Believe it or not, the offense isn't just about Dalton and A.J. Green. Giovani Bernard, a special player that just makes things happen, needs more touches. Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham need to have a greater influence in the passing game -- namely, not dropping passes. Marvin Jones, who went from probable No. 2 receiver to chameleon in only a few weeks, said that he needs to get started early.
Well, that's everyone.
Cincinnati has faced a double-digit deficit in each of the past three games. Against the Miami Dolphins, the Bengals were losing 17-3 midway through the third quarter. The Baltimore Ravens jumped out to a 17-0 half time lead and the Cleveland Browns took a 13-0 lead in the first quarter. Cincinnati eventually recovered to send the game in Miami and Baltimore into overtime, then scored 31 points in the second quarter against the Browns.
The Bengals have been outscored 23-0 in the first quarter over the past three weeks and the opposing team has scored a combined 40 points in the first half, outscoring the Bengals 40-34 -- and 31 of those points were all against the Browns.
How about taking a lead, instead of forced into comeback mode, which tends to minimize weapons like Giovani Bernard while having Dalton launch the football 104 times against the Dolphins and Ravens.