Team: San Diego Chargers
"Bolt Up", "We're All In", "Watch Lightning Strike"
Mike McCoy is in his third year with San Diego, and it's said to be a critical one for McCoy and the club. In his first season (2013), McCoy led the Chargers to a 9-7 record, through the Wild Card round of the playoffs where they beat the Bengals, but lost in the Divisional Round to the Broncos. From 2009-2012, McCoy was the Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator.
Recapping Last Season:
Was another 9-7 season a disappointment or an over-achievement for the Chargers? The club missed out on the playoffs, prompting groans from fans, but San Diego weathered the storm of many important injuries through 2014. After shooting off to an 8-4 start, the Chargers stumbled to the finish line with a 1-3 record in December.
Philip Rivers had another outstanding season, eclipsing 4,200 passing yards to go along with 31 touchdowns, but an inconsistent running game plagued the team. Eric Weddle continued to be the star of the defense with another Pro Bowl berth under his belt. Unfortunately for San Diego, first round corner Jason Verrett only played in six games as a rookie last year.
History With Cincinnati:
Aside from the teams that comprised the old AFC Central and the current AFC North, perhaps no other team has more significant ties to the Bengals than the Chargers. The most notable being the "Freezer Bowl",the 1981 AFC Championship game, which propelled the Bengals to the Super Bowl that year. Two of the best quarterbacks of the 80s faced off in the game, pitting San Diego's Dan Fouts against Cincinnati's Ken Anderson.
More recently, the Bengals have been making frequent trips to the West Coast for these match ups. Jon Kitna and Co. beat up on the Chargers in 2003, while San Diego had their way with Cincinnati after an emotional week after the death of Chris Henry. After the Bengals won the last two regular season contests out west in 2012 and 2013, San Diego got their revenge on Cincinnati in the 2013 postseason.
2015 Season Outlook:
It has been a tumultuous offseason for the Chargers, mostly thanks to their cloudy future. City discussions and rumors of the team moving to Los Angeles have overrode headlines surrounding the club. Regardless, they have had a pretty productive offseason when it comes to the makeup of their roster.
They grabbed two talented players on both sides of the ball early in the draft with running back Melvin Gordon and linebacker Denzel Perryman. The Chargers have had injury issues at linebacker, so Perryman should help them in that capacity, while Gordon will be the workhorse. He'll also need to show prowess as a receiver because Rivers loves to use backs in the offense.
Speaking of Rivers, he got a mega-extension this offseason, signing a four year, $83.25 million extension, with a staggering $65 million of it guaranteed. The extension all but plants Rivers in a Chargers uniform for the rest of his career, which should bring relief given some rumors that he wouldn't want to stay with the club should they move to L.A.
Cincinnati Game Date/Time:
Week 2: Sunday, September 20th, 1:00 p.m. EST
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Odds Of A Bengals Victory:
The Very Early Outlook:
The Bengals get a slight edge already for the game taking place in their backyard, but these are two relatively evenly-matched clubs. The Bengals might have a bit more depth everywhere, but Rivers has shown a scrappy penchant to bring his club back from big deficits, regardless of his cast. Even if the Bengals get a decent lead in their home opener, they can't let off of the gas.
Stopping Gordon will be key in this one. If the Bengals' re-built defensive line can force the Chargers' offense to become one-dimensional, they can tee off on the very immobile Rivers. One thing the Bengals' defense was excellent at last season was getting turnovers--namely interceptions. Frustrating Rivers will undoubtedly cause some and give the Bengals an edge behind the home crowd.
Another facet is the play of Andy Dalton. In his last three (and only) games versus the Chargers, including the postseason loss, Dalton has just three touchdown passes against five interceptions. Getting away from predictable play-calling and having all available weapons at his disposal, should aid in Dalton’s recent woes when it comes to the Chargers.