Chargers at Bengals: Picks, Spreads, Odds, and Predictions

A quick jump around the web to see who the media "experts" are picking to win the Sunday playoff game against the Chargers.

It is playoff time. The Bengals need to get over the hump of that first playoff win. Let's see what the experts think the outcome on Sunday will be. The Bengals are favored by a touchdown and the over under is at 47.

Name Pick Score Blurb
Elliot Harrison - NFL.com Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium 34 - 28 Your friendly writer lacked the guts to go with the Bolts in this one, and here's why: I don't think they'll win. Seriously. Picking the Chargers would have been fun, but it also would have meant ignoring too many signs, starting with the fact that San Diego's defense has regressed. If the Chargers had trouble with the plumbers and taco-salad makers and scout-team players the Chiefs threw at them last weekend (OK, that's an exaggeration), what are they going to do with a Bengals team that has scored 49, 41, 42, 42 and 34 points in its past five home games?

In its three most recent outings in Cincinnati, the offense has averaged 417 yards per game. Come on. Of course, the Bengals do have an inconsistent quarterback in Andy Dalton, who has to be embarrassed about his play in last week's win over Baltimore. Nothing about his four interceptions Sunday was fluky. We fully acknowledge we're somewhat hard on Dalton, who is still such a young player, yet there isn't much getting around the fact that he is capable of holding his team back.

Beware the streaky shooter ... or quarterback. In the same way that a couple of basketball stars can decide to get hot and engage in a mano-a-mano faceoff for the ages -- think of Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird in Game 7 of the NBA's Eastern Conference semifinals in 1988 -- two quarterbacks can decide a playoff game. Remember Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers in the wild-card round a few years back? On this front, Philip Rivers > Andy Dalton. If Rivers can isolate rookie receiver Keenan Allen in mismatches against a mediocre Bengals secondary and find him in the end zone at least twice, this sucker is going the other way. That said, expect the Chargers to run 30 times anyway

Don Banks - SI Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium 34 - 24
The Chargers certainly appear to be the quintessential "dangerous team" in this year's AFC playoffs, having needed an improbable chain of events -- not to mention a little help from the officials last week against Kansas City -- to fall their way just to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2009. That gives Philip Rivers and Co. a playing-with-house-money feel, but if the Bengals are as good as I think they are, San Diego's karma won't matter. This is no-excuses time for Cincinnati, which has reached the playoffs five times in the Marvin Lewis coaching era, but is still waiting for its first postseason win. Unbeaten at home this season, the Bengals should have everything working in their favor. If they can't get over the hump and into the divisional round with this team, against this playoff opponent, then Cincinnati will rank as one of the underachievers of the year.
Pete Prisco - CBS Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
33 - 23 The Bengals are the only team in the AFC playoffs that finished ranked in the top­ 10 in both offense and defense. They are also undefeated at home this season and average nearly 35 points there. That's not good for a San Diego team that has a long trip and will be playing in the cold. The Chargers are also 29th in pass defense, which could mean a big game for Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. The Chargers can pass the ball as well, and they were fifth in the league throwing it with Philip Rivers. The key will be how well they can protect him. If they do a good job, he will make plays down the field. It was 17­-10 Bengals the first time these teams played. There will be a lot more points scored here. Bengals take it in a wild one.
Coley Harvey - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium 27 - 20 Cincinnati will get the play-action game going and will capitalize on its use of zone-read option last week. The Bengals are just too strong overall at home.
Eric D. Williams - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium 23 - 20 Hard to pick against Philip Rivers, but Cincinnati's defense and a predicted snowstorm will be too much for San Diego to overcome.
Greg Cote - Miami Herald Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium 21 - 17 Sunday's early game is your weekend Cinderella Bowl, I suppose. Every playoffs' first round has to have one. San Diego is the long-shot lucky to be here, sneaking in only because the Chiefs missed a late field goal last week and because the Dolphins and Ravens both were kind enough to lose. Cincy's glass-slipper cred is even better: The Bengals last won a playoff game almost a quarter century ago, on Jan. 6, 1991. The team is 0-4 in the postseason under Marvin Lewis. Wonder if Bengals fans even remember how to celebrate a playoff win? They'll need to. Cincy is a perfect 8-0 at home this year and should stay that way. I still don't trust Andy Dalton much, but I do trust this defense. The Bengals' pass defense limits home opponents to a 60.6 rating and has 15 interceptions. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger all lost games here this season. So should Philip Rivers. The betting line unduly disrespects Diego, though. Bengals edged Bolts 17-10 on Dec. 1 and I like this one as close or closer.
Mike Florio - ProFootballTalk Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium 30 - 20 The Bengals have won every game at home this year. Their road wins included a victory at San Diego. While the weather won't be as unforgiving as it was 32 years ago for the AFC title game between these same teams, the Bengals will break a postseason winless streak that dates back to the week before they wrecked Bo Jackson's hip.
Michael David Smith - ProFootballTalk Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium 34 - 24 The Chargers' offense is a threat to put a lot of points on the board against anyone, including even that excellent defense that Marvin Lewis has built in Cincinnati. But the Chargers' defense is a mess, and I think that will be the difference in this game. The Bengals have so many talented offensive skill position players that I see the Chargers' defense having fits trying to cover everyone. Cincinnati will win a high-scoring game.

Then there are the experts that pick the winners without a score projection or a writeup. Some of those are here:

Media Guy Pick
Marcus Allen - ESPN Sd_medium
Mike Golic - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Merril Hoge - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Ron Jaworski - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Chris Mortensen - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Adam Schefter - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Mark Schlereth - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Tom Jackson - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Keyshawn Johnson - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Mike Ditka - ESPN Sd_medium
Chris Carter - ESPN Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Jason La Canfora - CBS Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Josh Katzowitz - CBS Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
Ryan Wilson - CBS Lgo_nfl_cincinnati_bengals_medium
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