Week 14: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday Dec. 9, 1:05 p.m PST
The Cincinnati Bengals emerged as a sneaky dangerous team in the AFC when they started 4-1, as the offense was playing at a fairly high level. But their early-season success feels like a faded memory right now, and they can thank an abysmal defense for it.
Currently sitting at 5-6, the Bengals porous defensive unit is a major reason why they have lost five of their last six games and sit third in the AFC North. Cincinnati is giving up 439.6 yards-per-game, which is the worst mark in the NFL. Furthermore, their passing defense has allowed 292.2 passing yards-per-game and 25 touchdown tosses. Both totals are second-worst and tied for second-worst in the league, respectively.
Cincy’s shaky pass coverage bodes well for Rivers because his starting running back will most likely be sidelined. But for backup tailback Austin Ekeler, he could still have a strong day against the Bengals’ horrid run defense. Their 147.5 rushing yards allowed-per-game are 31st in the NFL behind only the Oakland Raiders.
Now their offense has some bright spots. Running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver Tyler Boyd have provided the Bengals with two promising offensive weapons for the long-term future. The second-year tailback has raced his way to 673 rushing yards and five touchdown runs in nine games played, while Boyd has recorded a team-high 841 receiving yards and six scoring catches off of 63 receptions.
But aside from the pair, Cincinnati’s offense should not challenge the Chargers’ defense. Perennial 1,000-yard receiver A.J. Green has missed the last three games with a toe injury, and his status for this game is unknown. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will miss the remainder of the season with a thumb injury, pitting the Bolts defense against either Jeff Driskel or newly-signed Tom Savage.
The Chargers will bounce back from their loss to the Steelers with a somewhat dominant win over Cincinnati.
Prediction: 27-17 Chargers