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Staff Predictions: Breaking down the Chargers vs. the Bengals

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The San Diego Chargers head into Cincinnati Bengals to see which of these two teams can stay undefeated the longest. What will happen? We make predictions and preview the game.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After beating the Lions week 1 and watching their 2 divisional rivals suck it up last night, you'd think the Chargers will carry a great deal of confidence into Sunday's game against the Bengals. Cincinnati is fresh off a scoring the 1st 33 points in a 33-13 drubbing of the Oakloland Raiders. How do these 2 match-up?

When the Bengals have the Ball?

From a strategic standpoint, Cincy does a lot of things similiar that the Lions do. Try to get the ball out quick and into their playmakers hands to let them create. As well as attack the the middle of the field with their athletic tight end. The Bengals are more of a power running team that want to run it right at you with their workhorse, Jeremy Hill, who is a load to bring down, but also is shifty enough and can make you miss 1-on-1.

Starts up Front

For whatever reason, Oakland only blitzed Andy Dalton 3 times in 35 dropbacks. To make matters worse they played the most vanilla type of defense, too. Mostly Oakland just rushed 4 and played Cover 2 or 3 behind and forced Dalton to beat them. He did. The Raiders only hit Dalton twice and didn't bring him down at all. Dalton had time in the pocket to take a bite of his burger, get out of his seat to grab a napkin, wipe the animal style sauce off his face, and drink his sprite, before the Raiders got to him.

On the edge the Bengals have 1 of the best left tackles in the league in Andrew Whitworth. He gives up nothing. Melvin Ingram will have his hands full there. Any production out of Ingram this week from the left side is a bonus. Where the Chargers have the advantage of is right up the middle. The Bengals center and right guard had a rough go at it last week. Constantly being bullrushed into the backfield. Ideally, this is a great opportunity for Ricardo Mathews to bounce back. The center, Russell Bodine, is their Johnnie Troutman. San Diego has to take advantage of this. I would expect to see more double A-gap blitzes to put the pressure on Bodine while putting Corey Liuget over the right guard. At right tackle Andre Smith struggles with athleticism. If Ingram or Kyle Emanuel, or even Jerry Attaochu fight to the whistle, they should be able to get the best of Smith. He looked lethargic a week ago.

Based off a Troutman reference, and the possibility of a Attaochu-Ingram-Liuget-Emanuel four man rush, advantage Chargers.

Winning in space

Hue Jackson has long been 1 of my favorite playcallers. Last week he did his best to make sure that the Bengals had the numbers advantage and the team took advantage of it. Whether it was in the run game.

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Nice "tackle over" look there, and the tight end circled is a backup tackle. Where the Bengals got a good chunk of their yards was because Oakland couldn't math. The Bengals their 3 on 2 matchups all day.

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It took Oakland 3 quarters to adjust to this. The Chargers will have to honor this as the Bengals will shift to this late in the clock and at the same time hold up inside. Hill broke a handful of tackles last week and Gio Bernard is no slouch when it comes to breaking ankles, either. That's not even getting to their WRs, who we'll get to in a minute. But the Bengals will do their best to get Tyler Eifert in space, as well as quick screens to the guys on the perimeter.

The Chargers missed 11 tackles last week. Ehhh.

Advantage: Bengals

Round 2 on the Perimeter

Megatron last week. This week A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, both RBs, Eifert, and Mohamed Sanu. I'm guessing we'll see a lot of the same as last week, considering the gameplan didn't seem too different. Brandon Flowers on Green with Eric Weddle over the top. Verrett on Sanu and Patrick Robinson on Jones. Last week it was Jimmy Wilson on the tight end. The one time he was targeted Wilson wasn't in position. Eric Ebron isn't in Eiferts galaxy.

I wouldn't mind seeing Weddle on Eifert. That's who Dalton is looking for quick and as an outlet. Let Weddle take away Dalton's security blanket. Put Wilson over/under Green and Addae deep. Putting a linebacker on Eifert is dangerous, as is getting caught in 1-on-1 situations when they go deep to Green. He ran by his defender a couple times a week ago, even dropped a TD. The goal should be to make Sanu beat you. I'm torn here because I'm expecting Cincy's RBs to have a big day but I also think the various looks, coverages and pressure packages will force Dalton to Dalton.

Advantage: Chargers

When the Chargers have the ball

Corral Geno

The good news is despite taking 2 unnecessary sacks and 2 costly missed throws, Philip Rivers was lights out last week. As were the 5 up front when it came to protecting him. The bad news is Geno Atkins looks like he's back in peak form. Last year the Bengals blitzed the 2nd fewest times in the NFL, at just under 15% of the time. That didn't change last Sunday as they only brought 5 or more rushers 5 times. You don't have to blitz when you can lineup Atkins and Carlos Dunlap on the same side and create havoc.

D.J Fluker played so damn well last week. He was the best offensive lineman on the team. His replacement, Chris Hairston, was fine, but he didn't "wow" you like Fluker did. Whether it was pulling and just stoning defenders at the point of attack, or creating holes and getting to the second level, he was awesome. I'd expect the Bengals to try and take advantage of Hairston.

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Ironically, the guy who I thought would be the best lineman on the team had the worst game last week. Franklin struggled, and Barksdale wasn't much better. I'm expecting the team to help towards Dunlap's side and just continue to expect King Dunlap to take care of business like most of his time as a Charger.

Wallace Gilberry is no slouch on the other side of Dunlap, but because of the unknown from Hairston and because Atkins can do this:

Advantage: Bengals

Get Danny the rock!

Like the Chargers, the Bengals linebackers were not great when it came to finishing plays. In coverage the Bengals linebackers gave up 14 completions on 16 targets for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns. Here's a secret, Danny Woodhead and Ladarius Green are better than any Raiders target. As is Melvin Gordon. Texas routes or option routes to Woodhead out of the backfield should be there all day. Oakland scored on both a texas and an option route late in the game. But the RBs were open underneath for the majority of the game. As for Green, play-action pop passes(think his TD last week) will be there for a couple of shot plays, but mainly expect him to get the bulk of his work underneath.

This is the area that the Chargers have to win if they want to come away with a road victory. I think they will take this phase. Advantage: Chargers

Can Keenan repeat?

Whatever Adam Jones had for breakfast last week, give the Chargers linebackers that on Sunday. He was everywhere. Beating linemans blocks to make tackles for a minimal gain. Getting physical with Amari Cooper and frustrating him throughout the game. Keenan Allen, coming off a career game, has had Jones number in the past. This should be a great matchup. Great matchups continue inside as Leon Hall goes head to head against Stevie Johnson. Hall gave up 3 catches on 5 targets last week for a total of 5 yards. That's all you need to know about how well he played.

The Bengals left corner needs to be taken advantage of. They surprisingly left him on an island for a lot of the game. I wonder if Malcom Floyd will be the recipient of more targets this game. Kirkpatrick doesn't play all that fast and is far from a technician. Last week he missed 2 tackles in space. This is the only matchup I could confidently say the Chargers have an advantage in and because it just doesn't seem like the team would attack it.

Advantage: Bengals

Staff Picks:

Kyle- There are so many similarities from this game to last week. Hard to imagine the team getting down big and being able to come back. Though I also have a hard time imagining Dalton performing well against a defense that won't give him vanilla looks. I don't know who's going to win. When I don't know who is going to win I go with the best signal caller. Eifert, Green and Hill all have their big plays, but the Bengals settle for Field Goals. Rivers and Woodhead lead the Chargers to victory, 24-23.

Richard-The defense will lock down Cincy's receivers, but Tyler Eifert and Jeremy Hill will have big games. The Chargers rally late, but fall short. 24-21 Cincinnati.

Gennaro-Ingram and Emanuel again force a couple of turnovers from the opposing QB, Melvin Gordon gets into the end zone for the first time, and Stevie Johnson leads the team in receiving. 28-24 San Diego

Jordan Lee-Fresh off a strong performance against Megatron and co. the Chargers secondary bottles up A.J. Green. A consistent pass rush from Kyle Emanuel and Melvin Ingram means at least one Andy Dalton turnover. Melvin Gordon get his first career score and while Philip Rivers' stats aren't as gaudy, he's just as sharp down the stretch. 24-20 San Diego

Ruben Gonzalez- The Chargers play loose and aggressive. Chargers take an early 2 score lead and that allows Coach Pagano free reign to unleash some blitzs. It takes a few drives for the Bengals to finally get a rhythm but by then the Chargers are firing on all cylinders and cruising along. Chargers finally put the NFL on notice as well as everyone else. Rivers 350+ Allen 100+ MGIII 100+, Ingram 2 Sacks, Weddle 1 Int, Verrett 1 Int, Lambo 4-4 Chargers win 40-26.

SDNativeinTX-Bengals 27 - Bolts 20  The team comes out looking half awake through most of the first half.  Unlike last week, this species of cat stays with the run and does not make too many mistakes on either side of the ball.  By the time the team wakes up, they are down 21-10 and the Bengals manage to play keep away and defense enough to get the win.

Matthew Stanley-The Andy Dalton that has cable shows up and throws at least one interception, but it isn't all bad as Eifert and Hill have good games for the Bengals.  Rivers meanwhile keeps up his efficiency completing 74% or better and no int's this time. Melvin Gordon scores his first NFL touchdown this week as well. I'm going 24-17 Chargers.

Jeff Sinard-The Chargers get a tougher matchup this week. The Bengals have talent and speed on the corners to slow down the Chargers WRs, while slowing the Chargers run game. On the other side, the Chargers defense bottle up the Bengals WRs, but Hill, Bernard, and Eifert exploit the same holes as the Lions to greater effect. CIN 23-SD 17.

Jaime Hoyle- Both offenses come out trying to do two things: pound the ball on the ground and create mismatches with their tight ends.   I think the Bengals have more success early but John Pagano finds ways to rattle Andy Dalton late and force a timely turnover.  Corey Luiget gets a big sack/fumble late, setting up Josh Lambo as the unlikely hero.  The rook comes up big after being iced.  Chargers win 27-24.

Garrett Sisti-Tyler Eifert tears the Chargers up in the middle of field, the Bengals defense racks up multiple sacks but it's Stevie Johnson who benefits from Cincinnati keying on Keenan Allen that is the difference maker. Chargers win 21-13 because I said so.