The LA Chargers are on the road to take on Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13 in a game that is essentially a must-win for the Bolts. We published our final AFC playoff picture predictions based on the teams' remaining schedules and it became clear that beating the Bengals is massive for the Chargers' playoff implications.
The Chargers could beat the Bengals and still lose another two times and make the playoffs. However, if the Chargers lose to the Bengals they could finish 4-1 and still miss the playoffs based on tiebreakers. It is a hugely important game that was made even more important by the team's ugly loss to the Denver Broncos.
And while this game might have seemed like an easy W when the schedule was first announced, it is a matchup that Charger fans should be worried about. While Justin Herbert should be able to thrive against this defense, the Bengals offense has all the right pieces to absolutely tear apart the Chargers defense. Joe Mixon is starting to peak at the wrong time for the Chargers and Joe Burrow could expose an ugly reality to Chargers fans in Week 13.
Why the LA Chargers should be worried about this matchup against Joe Burrow
It is no secret that the Chargers' secondary has struggled without Asante Samuel Jr. in it. Tevaughn Campbell has been tasked with taking over for Samuel and has played terribly in recent weeks. He was bad yet again in Week 12 against the Broncos and cannot be trusted at all. According to Pro Football Focus, in his last five games, Campbell has allowed 21 receptions on 29 targets with zero pass breakups. He has been bad in coverage and he has been really bad in tackling as well.
Most of the attention in the secondary is on Campbell and how poorly he is playing. That is taking some of the attention off of Michael Davis, who is not having the leap year in 2021 that we expected. He has not been awful, but he certainly hasn't played like the CB1 that the Chargers need him to be. With Drue Tranquill struggling in the pass coverage in recent weeks, the Chargers' have multiple holes in the passing game for teams to exploit.
The narrative thus far for the Chargers has been how bad the run defense is. And while that is certainly true, it has taken some attention off of a secondary that, quite frankly, might not be as good as we think. Yes, there are positives in Derwin James and Nasir Adderley but that is not enough to make up for the holes in the secondary.
So why is Joe Burrow such a big concern for the LA Chargers? Simple. He is one of the biggest vertical threats the team has faced this season. The only quarterbacks that could make the case over Burrow is Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott. However, the Chargers caught Mahomes during his early-season rut and his turnovers negated his positive play while the team had a healthy secondary against Dak and the Cowboys in Week 2.
Even if Burrow is second to Mahomes, the fact of the matter is that the Chargers have had a fairly easy quarterback schedule, at least as far as the passing game is concerned. Yes, they have taken on some good running quarterbacks, but that is about it. The quarterbacks they have played thus far this season are Ryan Fitzpatrick/Taylor Heinicke, Prescott, Mahomes, Derek Carr, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Mac Jones, Kirk Cousins, Ben Roethlisberger and Teddy Bridgewater/Drew Lock.
The best quarterback they have played since Week 2 is probably Kirk Cousins, who had a really good game against the Chargers, completing 25 of 37 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns. Heck, even old-man Big Ben completed 28 of 44 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns with no picks. If Cousins and Big Ben look that good against the Chargers just imagine how good Burrow will look.
With the talent at quarterback and the several very talented weapons in the Cincinnati offense, the LA Chargers might be exposed in Week 13 as having more than just a really bad run defense, but a really bad defense altogether.