The weather for Sunday's game looks to be about 35 degrees, with 40% chance of snow/ice/sleet/rain, and 18 mph winds. Yuck. The only thing worse than being cold is being wet and cold.
Here is where you're expecting me to tell you that the weather gives the Bengals the advantage because they're used to it and the Chargers aren't. Well, that's only a tiny bit true. There's something to be said to knowing how to handle a football when you can't feel your fingers. It's a skill you can learn over the years and one you can forget if you've spent a decade or so in San Diego, but it's not that big of a deal.
What I'm more concerned with is the element of sloppiness that this could bring to the game. My big fear is a "Mud Bowl" type of game, with players slipping and sliding all over the place. In games like that, neither team has the advantage but the winner is determined more by luck than anything else.
In addition, muddy games typically favor the team that plays better defense. The Chargers having the worst defense in the league, I'm hoping for a surprisingly clear and sunny Ohio day on Sunday.
Nothing about this game scares me most than Jeff Triplette. For those unfamiliar with him, he's the worst referee in the league. A few weeks back, he gifted the Bengals with an unearned touchdown (on 4th & goal!).
The Chargers win when everything breaks their way. The offense can run its gameplan, the defense can make stops on third down, and there are no gigantic screwups by the referees to determine the outcome of the game.
Let it be said that the Chargers could probably play their best game of the season on Sunday and still walk away with the loss because Jeff Triplette is the referee. That's how bad he's been. That's likely how bad he will be.
Before you start thinking that Triplette's buffoonery could end up getting the Chargers a win, do yourself a favor and read this. More often than not, referees interfering with the outcome of the game do so in support of the home team. It's not a cognizant thing, they just secretly yearn to hear the cheer of the crowd instead of death threats. Who can blame them?
So, even if the weather is great, and even if the Chargers have a great game plan, they'll have to hope that Triplette and his crew don't find some way to hand the game to the home team.
Oh, did I forgot to mention that the Chargers have to actually play against another NFL football team? Here are some fun facts:
- The Bengals finished the season with the 17th best offense in the league.
- The Bengals finished the season with the 5th best defense in the league.
- As you may have heard, the Bengals went 8-0 at home this season. In addition, they only lost back-to-back games once all year (with both of those losses coming in overtime).
On December 1st, the Bengals came into San Diego and forced 3 turnovers, leaving with the win. This was not a mistake or a fluke. This is what Marvin Lewis' team has done all season long.
In fact, the Bengals' defense forced multiple turnovers in seven of their eight home games this season. By comparison, the Chargers' defense forced multiple turnovers in three of their eight homes games (which is better than their road numbers) this season.
This Cincinnati defense is good. Really good. Which explains how they held San Diego to just 10 points last month. The San Diego defense can't come close to matching them (or stopping A.J. Green), and the offense will need to play a flawless game to have a chance at victory.
Can they do it? I don't know, but the opponent and the weather and Jeff Triplette have me concerned.