The Bengals certainly have had a hot hand recently; they have dominated each of their last three opponents. If the Bengals are to continue their powerhouse status, they will need outstanding performances from some standout players.
So, which of the Bengals are poised to put up some gaudy numbers this week? Let’s take a look at some bold predictions for five players who will strike fear in the hearts of the Chargers and remaining 30 NFL teams.
Leon Hall will not only record his first pick of the season this week—he will get two.
Most quarterbacks this season have been throwing the ball away from Hall. He has been recognized as one of the top corners in the league and is terrific in coverage.
Enter Philip Rivers.
Rivers has thrown 14 interceptions this season, as he continuously tries to force the ball downfield.
Hall will be shadowing Malcolm Floyd for a good majority of the game, and Rivers will not be able to stop himself from slinging it toward his top receiver. This will allow Hall to utilize his ability to get in the right position and make a play on an errant Rivers pass.
Also, if the Bengals continue to put up points early, this will force Rivers to throw more than the Chargers would like—very much to the benefit of Hall.
Geno Atkins has been a one-man wrecking machine this season. He is currently the owner of nine sacks, which leads all defensive tackles.
The Chargers offensive line has been less than spectacular up to this point—it has allowed defenses to sack Rivers 32 times.
With Rivers likely to throw more this week than normal, it will allow Atkins to focus more on the pass rush rather than defending against the run.
It will be very difficult for the Chargers to double-team Atkins. The Bengals have other solid pass-rushers on the line in Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap.
Atkins will benefit from this favorable matchup and continue his dominance as the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the league.
Mohamed Sanu will have his biggest game as a Bengal this week, going for 100 yards and a score.
With the Chargers (and every other team, for that matter) keying on A.J. Green, Sanu will be left one-on-one in coverage.
Andy Dalton trusts Sanu, and they have developed quite a chemistry of late. With All-Pro safety Eric Weddle cheating in Green’s direction, Sanu will be able to take advantage, resulting in longer gains than he has seen this season.
Dalton should look to Sanu often because he has proven to be a very reliable possession receiver that is not afraid to cross the middle and make difficult catches in traffic.
Sanu is also becoming a very valuable red-zone threat, as he uses his size and strength to wrestle the ball away from any nearby defenders.
This week will mark the coming-out party for the rookie from Rutgers and brand him as a very formidable wide receiver.
This may not quite be as bold as the other selections with BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming off of two straight 100-yard rushing games, but San Diego is not the easiest team to rush against.
The Chargers are only allowing an average of just over 91 rushing yards per game and a 3.8 yards-per-carry average.
On the flip side, Cincinnati has its offensive line playing very well in the running game lately, opening up gaping holes for their backs.
The Bengals will win the battle in the trenches as San Diego’s defense tires out toward the second half. With Cincinnati having the capability to get up early on the Chargers, there will be plenty of chances to pound the rock for Green-Ellis.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis loves to kill clock when his team has the lead, and Green-Ellis will be the beneficiary of these added opportunities and make the most of them.
One of the major reasons why the Bengals have been such a force of late is the great play on defense. In the past three games, Cincinnati has given up 13, six and 10 points, respectively.
That trend will continue this week, as the Chargers are held to a low number.
With the Chargers boasting a minus-three turnover ratio, Cincinnati is favored to end its opponent’s drives quickly and will become ball-hawks.
Ryan Matthews has not been very impressive so far, and the Bengals rush defense has been lights-out in recent weeks. This puts much added pressure on Rivers.
When the Chargers are not capable of running and Rivers is under duress, this becomes a recipe for turnovers and stalled drives. The Cincinnati defense will take full advantage of the ineptitude of the Chargers offense and leave them wondering what went wrong.
With San Diego losing seven games already this season and the Bengals poised to make it eight, one must begin to wonder if Norv Turner will finally be finished with the club after this season.
Only time will tell regarding the Turner situation, but alas, the wait is a short one to watch these Bengals take it to San Diego on Sunday.