Playoff's baby. The Bengals find a familiar foe in the San Diego Chargers. Having played them just a moth ago both teams got hot and finished the season strong. I touched base with John Gennaro to ask him a few more questions.
I don't buy into the backing into the playoffs argument. In the NFL it is tough to make the playoffs and the Chargers are deserving of their spot. That being said, does the way the team has performed in the last couple games concern you?
Well, they're 4-0 in their last 4 games and 5-1 in their last 6 (the only loss being a close one to your Bengals).
Am I annoyed that the Chargers didn't show up to play in a do-or-die game against the Chiefs' backups? Yes. Am I concerned? Absolutely not, and that's specifically because of how well they have been playing over the last month or so. I am, optimistically, attributing the poor performance against KC as the proverbial "look past an easy opponent". The Chargers got past the tough parts of Sunday (wins by the Jets and Bengals) and thought they were home free. They took their eye off the ball. They started focusing on Week 18 instead of Week 17.
This team has been inconsistent for most of the season. The final month proved that they could find some consistency. I don't know that they lost it against the Chiefs, I think they just forgot that NFL backups still take some effort to put away.
The Bengals are undefeated at home and have been able to score bunches at Paul Brown. What can the Chargers do to disrupt the Bengals at home?
Almost all of the Chargers' wins this season have come via controlling the time of possession. Wins against the Eagles, Broncos and Colts were no fluke, the Chargers offense just got into a great rhythm and were able to keep the opposing offense off of the field. Look for San Diego to throw a lot of short passes, and get the ball into the hands of Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews regularly, in an effort to keep the Bengals out of rhythm and off the scoreboard.
It seemed like the Chiefs were still able to pressure Philip Rivers when many of their starters were resting. Is this a concern heading into this week?
No, not really. As I stated before, it's more likely that the team that beat the Broncos will show up rather than the one that almost lost to the Chiefs backups.
Despite having an offensive line that faced a ridiculous amount of turnover over the course of the season, the Chargers have done a great job of protecting Philip Rivers. In fact, the 30 sacks allowed is just 1 more than the Bengals have given up and ties the Chargers for 4th best in that category. When opposing defenses have been getting pressure, which has been rare when King Dunlap has been healthy, Rivers has been (surprisingly) nimble and scrambling around for good yardage.
Three AFC West teams made the post season. If it came down to it, which one would you rather play on the road? KC or Denver?
Whew, good question.
I want to say Denver. I really do. The Chargers have seemingly had Peyton Manning's number throughout his career, especially in the playoffs. It's a shorter trip and probably less of a chance for the wet, icy "wintry mix" that we'll likely see for this Sunday's game in Cincinnati.
However, I have to go with Kansas City. Their fans are probably louder and more intimidating, but their team is an excellent matchup for the Chargers. San Diego's backup plan heading into each and every game is "We could probably win a shootout against them if we had to." This is definitely true against the Chiefs, who the Chargers have beaten in a shootout in KC already, because they're in the playoffs more for their defense than their offense.
The Chargers probably have the 2nd best offense in the league, because the Broncos. When it comes right down to it, I'll take the matchup against the team that can't match the Chargers on points.
With Terrence Newman possibly still being unable to play. Do you think the Chargers will pass more or still try and attack with a balanced run to pass ratio?
Balance is the key, but you might see more WR screens to Eddie Royal with Newman out than you would otherwise.
This team is not deep in terms of receivers. There is Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal and.....well, that's about it. Vincent Brown is around but has been very disappointing this season. Seyi Ajirotutu had the game-winning catch against the Chiefs earlier this year, but has been absent otherwise (except on special teams).
The Chargers just hammer opposing defenses with options within 15 yards. They can throw to 2 receivers, 2 tight ends and 2 running backs comfortably, and they all have the ability to get open quickly. That puts most of the pressure on opposing linebackers, instead of on opposing corners, so I don't see the strategy changing much as a result of Newman's injury.