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3 things to watch for against the Bengals

The Chargers will need full-on “gangster” Herbert on Sunday.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers are on the road for another week as they head to Cincinnati to face the 7-4 Bengals.

The matchup between Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow will be the headliner as both quarterbacks look to earn some bragging over the other as the 2020 class’ top quarterback prospect.

Despite having just one win separating these two teams in terms of overall record, it seems like the Bengals have enjoyed a much more “pleasing” season than the Chargers. For starters, they haven’t had to survive nearly as many games decided by single-digit points. Five of the Bengals’ wins have come by 14 or more points. The Chargers have only one such game where they’ve won by seven or more points, and that was their win over the Raiders.

So when Brandon Staley says that his team has had to fight and fight each and every week, he’s not speaking in hyperbole. It’s been the truth.

Will the Chargers be forced to scratch and claw for every point in this game, as well? Time will tell, as it always does. But let’s go ahead and get into the meat of this.

Without further ado, here are my three things I’ll be keeping an eye on the most when the Bolts take the field in Cincinnati.

1.) The world finally gets Justin Herbert vs. Joe Burrow

In week one of the 2020 season, we were all stripped of the opportunity to see Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert face off against each other in their first career NFL games thanks to Anthony Lynn and his decision to start Tyrod Taylor for the 2020 season. However, we all saw just how fast that situation was flipped on its’ head.Due to an incredibly unfortunate medical mishap, Herbert got his first start in week two and never looked back.

But now, there are no bridge quarterbacks in the way of this highly-entertaining matchup. The green light is on and set to max power.

Burrow has enjoyed a phenomenal sophomore campaign in which he leads the NFL in touchdown passes of 30+ yards. He currently sits with 2,835 yards and 22 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. On the other side, Herbert has 3,230 yards on the year with 24 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. What’s crazy is Herbert has those better numbers despite his team dropping a league-high 29 passes this season.

The silver-lining here, at least for the Bengals, is that Cincy has built a team to surround Burrow that is able to support him when their guy isn’t playing his best. Burrow has a 5-3 record in games which he throws an interception. Herbert is 2-5 in such games.

2.) What can a banged-up Chargers secondary do against the Bengals receive corps?

For another week, the Chargers will be without starting cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion) and third safety Alohi Gilman (quad). Samuel Jr. is obviously the biggest loss out of those two as the rookie still leads the team in both pass breakups (seven) and interceptions (two) despite missing a pair of games already.

The Bengals’ top skill players are all healthy and ready to go for Sunday which means the secondary is likely in for their toughest task to date. Rookie Ja’Marr Chase is not only their leading receiver in every category but he’s also been one of the best wideouts in all of football this year.

It remains to be seen which corners line up on which receivers, but I’d like to think Michael Davis gets the draw on Chase when he lines up on the outside and Chris Harris will of course stick to him in the slot. That would mean Tevaughn Campbell lines up opposite Higgins on the perimeter and gives up quite a bit in the size department within that matchup (6’0 vs. 6’4).

Recent signing Davontae Harris may see some snaps in this one despite having just joined the team less than 48 hours ago. His familiarity within the system should be enough for him to see the field in some capacity and he may potentially not have a choice if Campbell and others aren’t up to the task at hand.

3.) Will any of the younger defensive tackles see the snap increases that they deserve?

On Thursday, defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill was asked about his young interior defensive lineman and why they saw minimal snaps just one week after playing so well against the Steelers. Hill praised the youngsters, which included Joe Gaziano and Breiden Fehoko, but essentially passed on giving any real answer to the question, deflecting it all upon defensive line coach Giff Smith stating that he’s done a great job of creating a rotation for the group.

This was a bit frustrating as we’ve come to expect straight-forward answers from Brandon Staley but Hill doesn’t quite seem to be there yet as a public speaker. We would have loved to see him explain why some guys may not be seeing as much playing time as we’d expect. I mean, after all he is the one to know better than us, but alas.

All I know — and many of you do, as well — that Jerry Tillery just isn’t getting the job done. In any facet of being a defensive lineman. There’s more teach tape about how to not play the run in his film than there is the opposite. Gaziano and Fehoko have shown just as many flashes as Tillery in a fraction of the opportunity. I understand the team doesn’t want to give up on some of these top picks so soon, but that timetable has got to be getting shorter and shorter with each week that goes by.