By Danny Cox
The Cincinnati Bengals have won three games in a row after a horrific four-game losing streak had them headed for the AFC North cellar. Currently, they are tied for second in their division with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and right in the mix for a playoff appearance. A victory over the San Diego Chargers would put them two games over .500, and closer to one of the coveted spots.
As of right now, San Diego is battered, bruised, and not looking like much of a threat to end the winning streak of the Bengals.
A 3-5 start to the season had many believing that the Bengals were going to have another disappointing season. Since then though, victories over the Giants, Chiefs, and Raiders have them right back in the thick of things and looking good.
One of the biggest reasons that the Bengals have rebounded so well is due to the play of quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green. Throw on top of that a born-again rushing game along with a solid defense and there should be no surprise that Cincinnati is looking like a true contender.
Green’s 6’4″, 207 pound frame allows for a big vertical target for Dalton. He also makes for a great deep threat every time he is on the field.
This season, Green already has 1,022 receiving yards, but more than a third of them have come on plays of 30 yards or more. He has seven receptions for 30 yards or more and three of those seven were for scores.
He gives the Bengals a deep threat that they have long been missing, but more teams are starting to realize that. If the Chargers stick to Green like glue, then who can Dalton turn to near the line?
That’s easy, tight end Jermaine Gresham.
Playing underneath, Gresham has a YPA of 8.6 and gives the Bengals a good short-game. That happens to be the one area on the field that Green is lacking in, so it’s nice for Cincinnati that someone else can step up in his place.
Oh, let’s not forget the rejuvenated running game led by running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Over the past six games of the season, he has averaged 6.7 yards per carry on plays with good blocking. Yes, that’s an actual NFL stat. This is a significant increase over his 5.6 average during the first five games of the season.
When San Diego tries to stop the passing game of Andy Dalton and bring the pressure, they’ll have to make sure at least one spy is sitting out and waiting for BGE.
Cincinnati hasn’t done it all with offense though. Their defense has had a bit of an awakening after being kind of shaky earlier in the season. Currently, the Bengals rank tied for ninth in defensive yards allowed per play. They also have the eighth best passing defense in the NFL which doesn’t spell good news for the Chargers.
San Diego already has a very injured and suspect offensive line. Cincinnati’s starting cornerbacks Leon Hall and Terence Newman are great at keeping big plays from happening and shutting down short passes. Given that the pass defense is going to be spot on, Philip Rivers is going to need more time to find an open man.
“More time” is exactly what his thrown-together offensive line hasn’t given him for weeks. It could be another long day for Rivers and the Chargers’ offense.
Cincinnati has all the pieces in place to make a late-season push for the playoffs. With the incredibly struggling Chargers being one of the obstacles in their way, the Bengals are prepared to run over, pass through, and throw down anything that San Diego brings to them.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Chargers news, see CBS Sports Los Angeles.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.