This is an exciting matchup between two of the best young talented quarterbacks in the NFL this Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals will host the Los Angeles Chargers. However, there is obviously much more to this game than the two studs at quarterback, so we caught up with Michael Peterson of Bolts from the Blue to get his perspective of this weekend’s matchup.
Patrick Judis: Bengals fans are well versed in all things Joe Burrow, but obviously Justin Herbert has also been one of the best young quarterbacks since coming out. What are your thoughts on Herbert so far?
Michael Peterson: Justin Herbert truly is the real deal. That being said, it’s been incredibly unfortunate to see the failings of the team around him. He’s a second-year quarterback and already the pressure can’t be higher. Out of all the quarterbacks in the AFC whose teams are projected to make the playoffs (including Burrow), he’s the only one with a losing record in games where he throws 1+ interceptions. The margin for error is razor-thin, and every other good team in the AFC has a better supporting cast/defense. It also doesn’t help that the Chargers lead the NFL in dropped passes. The guy truly cannot catch a break.
Herbert can make every throw on the field, and he’s about as level-headed as they come. He doesn’t let any ounce of adversity affect him, and you can see it via his play on the field. It doesn’t matter if he’s coming off a bad interception or his defense is getting trampled, he’s always up to the task. The Chargers are truly blessed to have gotten a guy like him at the quarterback position.
PJ: As far as the offense as a whole goes outside of Herbert, what should Cincinnati be worried about?
MP: I think you always have to keep tabs on Austin Ekeler. He’s going to line up all over the field and in a variety of positions. People still don’t give him the respect he deserves after being one of the best UDFA pickups in team history. He’ll beat you between the tackles and in the receiving game. Of course, you also have to find Keenan Allen before any given third-down situation. He’s the go-to player for Herbert and that connection is as strong as it’s ever been.
PJ: The Chargers defense has been an issue in recent games. What have other teams been exploiting?
MP: The run defense continues to be the worst in the NFL. They allow a little over 145.0 yards per game on the ground and there’s really not a lot of signs that things will get better anytime soon. They do not have the proper personnel to run Brandon Staley’s defense, and it’s excruciatingly frustrating to watch at times. The team is getting almost nothing out of former first-round pick Jerry Tillery and the formerly undrafted players behind him are already performing better.
As for the secondary, injuries to the corner room have hit the team hard. Asante Samuel Jr. being out with his second concussion this season gave way to former UDFA Tevaughn Campbell earning starts against the Vikings and Broncos. He proceeded to get exploited both those games, and the Bengals would be smart to exploit him all the same this week.
PJ: What is a player you think deserves some extra attention that Bengals fans may not know about?
MP: Linebacker Kyzir White is always the guy I like to throw out there when I get questions like this. He’s been an under-the-radar playmaker for the Chargers every week. His consistency has been key to this defense not looking a lot worse than they already have. Outside of Derwin James and Joey Bosa, he’s been the MVP of the defense this season. He currently is second on the team in tackles, as well as tied for first in tackles for loss and interceptions.
PJ: What is your prediction for this week’s game and what is the X-Factor for this one?
MP: I believe the Bengals will take this game at home pretty handily 30-21. The lack of depth in the secondary is going to get exploited by Cincy’s wide receiver room and I don’t think the Chargers will be able to do enough to mitigate the bleeding through the air. And that’s not even mentioning how much Joe Mixon will likely rush for on Sunday. Whoever gets the ball for the Bengals this weekend will likely have a pretty good day at the office.
Thanks again to Michael Peterson for answering our question. If you’d like to check out more of his work or Chargers coverage head over to Bolts from the Blue.