For the first time since the 2009 season, the Cincinnati Bengals have entered the playoffs as AFC North division champs and have the privilege of a postseason home game. A home game for the Bengals could be just what the doctor ordered to end their 23-year winless streak in the playoffs. They are 8-0 at home this season, and have scored an average of 34 points in their last five home games.
Andy Dalton has been hot at home the past few home games, but last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens was not his best performance. He threw four interceptions, and many argue if the Bengals want to win against the Chargers on Sunday that he can’t do that again. I agree, and if Andy Dalton has a bad outing, it could be a long day for the Bengals. The Chargers have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, and Dalton needs to take advantage of that. When the Bengals played the Chargers on December 1st in San Diego, Dalton did not have a good day but the Bengals were still able to come away with the victory because of a strong ground game.
The offensive line has faced a lot of conflict with recent injuries, but everyone has been able to step up and the mix up of the line has flown seamlessly. When Andrew Whitworth switched from left tackle to left guard, he was able to open up the run game for the Bengals and running backs Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green Ellis were able to take advantage of his blocking. If Dalton is to have a bad day on Sunday, the run game will be what helps to keep the Bengals postseason visit alive.
In the regular season finale against the Ravens, starting tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert both sat out with injuries. Gresham had a hamstring injury, and it looks as if him sitting out last week was just precautionary to make sure he was ready to go for this week’s game against San Diego. Eifert’s injury, on the other hand, looks more serious and he is questionable for Sunday. With back up tight end Alex Smith going down with a season ending injury to his wrist last week when he filled in for the duo, the Bengals can not afford to keep their starting tight ends out much longer. Having both Gresham and Eifert in the game makes it tough for defenses to come up with a scheme to cover them, and you could tell the passing game was suffering on Sunday without either of them in the lineup.
If the Bengals want to end their drought on Sunday, they need to protect Andy Dalton and give him time to pick apart the Chargers secondary. The Bengals’ defensive line also needs to do their job on the other side of the ball and make Philip Rivers as uncomfortable as possible, as he had a decent game against the Bengals earlier in the season, throwing for 252 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
In the end, the Bengals chances of finally winning a playoff game look good this Sunday at home against the Chargers.
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