The San Diego Chargers will win against the Cincinnati Bengals

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, we give fans of the San Diego Chargers three reasons to be optimistic about the team's chances in their upcoming game. This week, they welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to town in a very important game for both teams.

Philip Rivers / El Capitan / Two Gloves

For two years, Philip Rivers has shown flashes of being "El Capitan". That's the nickname we gave to him when he was clearly an elite QB, breaking all sorts of team and NFL records. Every time, I leaned back and arrogantly said "Just wait until the final drive."

The final drive was a killer. It always came with a terrible decision. Sometimes it was a forced pass, sometimes it was holding onto the ball too long, but it almost always resulted in a turnover on the biggest play of the game. This is the guy that we, as Chargers fans, have been living with for years. We watched Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and even Jay Cutler throwing game-winning touchdowns with just seconds left in the fourth quarter and thought that Rivers wouldn't be that guy again.

On Sunday, Philip Rivers graduated. The 70% completion percentage in a brand new offense was something to marvel at, but I was waiting for the day when the ball in his hands and down one score with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter almost assured San Diego the victory. I don't think we're quite there yet, but after Sunday's dramatic game-winning touchdown pass to Seyi Ajirotutu against one the league's top defenses, we're closer than we've been in a long time.

Bonus points for the second glove. Last year, Rivers found great success in the final quarter of the season by wearing gloves each game. This year, he's chosen to go with a glove on his non-throwing hand. In the cold Kansas City weather, he threw a glove on his right-hand and left the victor. I imagine the only game in which we might see that again this season is the night game in Denver, but I could be wrong. If he shows up to Sunday's game with two gloves, it's game on.

Mathews + Woodhead = Magic

I've been pounding this drum for a few weeks now. However, if you missed it, here are some stats to consider about the Chargers' 2013 backfield.

  • When Ryan Mathews gets 15+ touches, the 2013 Chargers are 4-3.
  • When Danny Woodhead gets 15+ touches, the 2013 Chargers 1-2.
  • When Danny Woodhead gets between 9 and 15 touches, the 2013 Chargers are 4-2.
  • When Mathews and Woodhead combine for 30+ touches, the 2013 Chargers are 4-0.

It's tricky, but it makes sense. When Woodhead gets 10-15 touches, that means that the passing game is moving down the field. When Mathews gets between 15-20 touches, that means that the running game hasn't been abandoned (and, lately, it means that Mathews is being thrown to a few times and making the offense less predictable). Anything more or less than that for either of them tends to lead to an unbalanced, predictable offensive.

Rivers is the captain and the star of the team, but one of the big reasons he's had so much success this season is because the passing game is not the only threat the Chargers have. Moving down the field and getting points is not entirely on his shoulders. Getting good production from both running backs is vital, and Ken Whisenhunt seems to get better at doing so with each game.

Progress / Kids

One thing that I keep forgetting is progress. I am a big believer in progress. I love progress. It's one of the reasons I always fear teams with starting rookies. They haven't reached their potential yet. They're going to get better as the season wears on and gets into the postseason.

This Chargers team is one of those teams. Keenan Allen is getting better each week, somehow. Ladarius Green is getting better each week. D.J. Fluker, Johnnie Troutman (not technically a rookie, but missed last year with an injury), Marcus Gilchrist (first year at a new position) and Manti Te'o are improving each week. Most importantly, Mike McCoy seems to be getting incrementally better as the season goes along.

Make no mistake, the Week 13 San Diego Chargers are better than the Week 1 San Diego Chargers this season, which means we still have no idea how good they actually are. They may have hit their ceiling against the Chiefs, but they could show up over the final month of the season and play their best football and nobody would be shocked (especially with Melvin Ingram's return on the horizon).

Until proven otherwise, I'm going to assume that this team of young coaches and young players will be 1 week better than they were last Sunday. If true, they'll be a tough match for the Cincinnati Bengals.

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