3TFO: Bengals @ Chargers, Week 13
After a strong 3-1 start, the San Diego Chargers’ season continues to slip away. The Bolts have lost six of their last seven games and cannot seem to do anything to stop their free fall. Inconsistent quarterback Philip Rivers had a solid game in week 12 (+1.8) but it was not enough to overcome the Ravens in an overtime loss. The embarrassing 4th-and-29 conversion in the fourth quarter that allowed Baltimore to tie the game will go down as one of the worst plays in the team’s history. The Chargers will need to forget about that fast to keep their very slim playoff hopes alive.
The Bengals come into San Diego winning three straight by a combined 64 points. A.J. Green and his league-leading 10 receiving touchdowns will provide a major test for the Chargers’ defense. Quarterback Andy Dalton is our 27th-ranked signal caller, but his grade of +6.3 in his last three contests suggests his young career could be on the rise. The Dalton-Green combination will factor in heavily in this Week 13 contest.
A.J. Green vs. Chargers Secondary
When it comes to pass catchers in Cincinnati, it’s A.J. Green then everyone else. The standout second-year receiver has played more than twice the snaps of any Bengals receiver and is tied for the third-highest ranking among wide receivers. He is third in deep passing catch rate, hauling in 39.3 percent of deep passes attempted. Possibly the most important overall stat for a receiver is Yards per Route Run, in which Green ranks sixth with 2.5. It’s safe to say he can do it all. Andrew Hawkins has been the next best receiver in Cincy, with most of his snaps coming in the slot. With tight end Jermaine Gresham (-8.3) having a down year, Green will have to continue to carry the passing game.
The Bengals will look to attack a weakness of the Chargers, the pass defense. Antoine Cason has allowed five touchdowns while only picking off two passes. Quarterbacks have a QB rating of 103.4 when targeting him. Quentin Jammer has had a solid year, but has been flagged six times — more than any other Charger defender. If Eric Weddle, the team’s highest-rated player in coverage, is unable to play because of a concussion suffered in Week 12, San Diego could be in for a long day trying to contain the Bengals’ star wideout.
Chargers Defensive Line vs. Bengals Offensive Line
The Chargers had to be worried about the production of last year’s first-round pick Corey Liuget, who was our 28th-ranked 3-4 defensive end. However, he has improved dramatically in his second season. Liuget comes in fifth among 3-4 DEs with an 8.7 percent stop percentage and has totaled 19 QB pressures. On the other side, Vaughn Martin has been the Bolts worst player on defense. In 250 pass rush attempts, Martin has totaled only nine pressures. Veteran Aubrayo Franklin has been a great addition, leading all defensive tackles (who have played at least 25 percent of snaps) with a run stop percentage of 12.3.
San Diego will have a tough time getting through the tough Bengals offensive line. Four of the five starters have earned at least a +12.4 grade. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth has managed a 97.2 Pass Blocking Efficiency, good for fourth among offensive tackles. Cincinnati also has two of the top five guards in pass block efficiency. Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler both come in at 98.3. Center Jeff Faine also has the same rating of 98.3. As good as they have been in pass protection, they have been good blocking for the run game as well. They help make life for Andy Dalton and the ground game easier.
Bengals Defensive Line vs. Chargers Offensive Line
The Bengals’ defensive line contains one of the most dominant players in the NFL, Geno Atkins. His rating of +49.1 is almost twice as high as the next best defensive tackle. He ranks third in run stop percentage and first in pass rush productivity among defensive tackles. Good luck, San Diego. Teamed with defensive ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, who are both having good seasons, the Bengals will look to be in the Chargers backfield all game long.
The play of the Chargers offensive line has been, well, offensive. Michael Harris comes in last in our signature stat for Pass Rush Productivity, allowing 47 pressures on 283 snaps. Jeromey Clary has not been much better, allowing 34 pressures on 413 snaps. As a team, the Chargers trail only the Cardinals with a pass block efficiency of 72.9. If they want to get more consistent play from Philip Rivers, they will need to keep him protected.
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