Chargers vs. Bengals: Full San Diego Game Preview
The San Diego Chargers (1-0) are headed to Cincinnati this week for their first road game of the 2015 season.
The last time the Chargers visited Paul Brown Stadium was in January 2014 for a Wild Card Game, which they won 27-10, so the home crowd won't exactly be laying out the welcome mat for Sunday's contest.
Still, the Chargers are prepared to face the challenges of playing on the road, with head coach Mike McCoy telling reporters on Wednesday, "It’s us against the world, and that’s going to be our mentality any time we go on the road."
The Bengals (1-0) have been tough to beat at home during the regular season since 2013, sporting a combined record of 13-2-1, and they will be playing their home opener on Sunday after beating the Raiders in Oakland 33-13 a week ago.
For more on Sunday's matchup, click next.
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
Time: 10 a.m. PT
Week 1 Results and Recap
The Chargers completed their largest-ever comeback at home to beat the Detroit Lions 33-28 last Sunday. The Bolts trailed 21-3 in the second quarter before scoring 30 unanswered points.
Philip Rivers, who threw two interceptions in the first half including a pick-six, bounced back in the second half to throw two touchdowns and finish with 404 passing yards—his seventh career game with 400 or more yards.
Keenan Allen had a career day with 15 catches for 166 yards, tying Kellen Winslow's team record for most catches in a single game. Danny Woodhead rushed for two scores on the ground, and Stevie Johnson and Ladarius Green had one receiving touchdown apiece.
The Chargers defense held All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson to two catches for 39 yards and 2014 Pro Bowler Golden Tate was limited to four catches for 24 yards.
Rookie Kyle Emanuel had a sack and an interception, and Patrick Robinson had a pick as well.
News and Notes
San Diego Has The Top-Ranked Offense in Week 1
Enjoy it while it lasts, Chargers fans. Your team has the league's No. 1-ranked offense after the first week of the regular season, having totaled 483 yards against the Lions. Also, Philip Rivers has the most passing yards with 404 and Keenan Allen leads the league in receiving yards with 166.
Chargers Add OL Kenny Wiggins, Waive TE Kyle Miller
In wake of the injury to starting right guard D.J. Fluker, which will be discussed in greater detail in the next slide, the Chargers signed Wiggins to the active roster on Tuesday and waived Miller in a corresponding move.
Wiggins appeared in one game for the Chargers last season and was among the final wave of roster cuts prior to this season.
Trevor Robinson Set to Face Former Team
Robinson, the Chargers' backup center, will go against the team that gave him his start as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He played in 19 games over two seasons with the Bengals, including seven starts. In the lead-up to Sunday's game, Robinson is prepared to dish on his former club, per ESPN's Eric D. Williams:
I was the backup for the majority of the time I was there. When you’re in that role throughout the week, you’re the one running the cards against them. So I’ve probably had as many reps against this starting defense as anybody else has. So hopefully I can help out in that way and pass along some information to some guys.
Robinson played last week against the Lions due to injuries and may be called on to start if the team elects to slide Chris Watt over to right guard in place of the injured Fluker.
Latest Injury News
Addae, Fluker, Williams, Troutman and Jones did not practice on Wednesday, per the team's website. Attaochu and Mager were full participants, and Emanuel and Flowers were limited.
Williams and Troutman have not practiced since the Chargers' first preseason game and will continue to be out for some time.
Addae was spotted wearing a walking boot at the team facility on Monday and was most likely injured during this play against the Lions but still managed to finish the game. Jimmy Wilson would be expected to start at strong safety if Addae can't go against the Bengals.
Fluker is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a high-ankle sprain, according to NFL media insider Ian Rapoport. Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Chris Hairston, who came on for Fluker in the third quarter of last Sunday's game, took first-team reps at right guard during Wednesday's practice and is likely to be the the starter there against the Bengals.
Emanuel, who was among the candidates for Pepsi Rookie of the Week, suffered a shoulder sprain in the win against Detroit, a source told Kevin Acee and Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, but he is expected to face Cincinnati on Sunday.
Attaochu's full participation in Wednesday's practice is a good sign he'll play his first game of the regular season after missing last week with a hamstring issue.
Jones was injured in the first half of Sunday's game and did not return. He suffered a sprained ankle, but it's not believed to be serious, per Rapoport. The Chargers had Keenan Allen return punts and Branden Oliver return kickoffs in Jones' absence, and that may be the same plan for Sunday with his status up in the air.
Chargers Cornebacks/Linebackers/Safeties vs. Bengals TE Tyler Eifert
The Chargers might need an army to cover Eifert following his impressive outing against the Raiders last week. The Bengals tight end had nine catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns, showcasing many of the physical abilities that some of the league's elite possess at the position.
He's big (6'6", 250 lbs), fast and essentially a mismatch for linebackers and defensive backs, but that won't stop the Chargers from trying to shut him down.
Eifert shrugged off cornerbacks for both of his touchdown catches against the Raiders, so it might be in San Diego's best interest to go with a bigger defender on Sunday.
Chargers Front Seven vs. Bengals RBs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard
The Bengals have not one but two talented backs. Hill is the workhorse on the ground and Bernard mixes in as a pass-catcher, much like what Danny Woodhead is for San Diego.
Together they make up a difficult one-two punch to game-plan for, and that should spell trouble for the struggling front seven of the Chargers, which surrendered 50 rushing yards and a touchdown to rookie Ameer Abdullah last week.
Hill and Bernard combined to rush for 126 yards against Oakland, and Hill had two scores on the ground.
Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett vs. Bengals WR A.J. Green
The Chargers' corners succeeded in bottling up Detroit's receiving duo of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate last week, and the hope is they can do the same against four-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green.
Flowers shadowed Johnson for most of the game and Verrett was left to guard Tate, so it will be interesting to see who lines up across from Green and if the Chargers decide to put help over the top like they did with Johnson.
Green had a so-so game against the Raiders last week, catching five passes for 63 yards but dropping a pass in the end zone.
Chargers' X-Factor of the Week: Chargers Defense
This week's X-factor is vague, I know, but going up against a Cincinnati offense loaded with weapons and a quarterback in Andy Dalton who knows how to use them, it's safe to say the Chargers will win this game if—and only if—they can get some stops on defense.
We saw last week how poorly the defense performed in the first half against Detroit, and it led to a 21-10 deficit at halftime.
However, things started to turn around in the second half when the defense started forcing some three-and-outs and getting a couple of turnovers.
To his credit, Dalton is among the league's most productive quarterbacks, but he can get rattled some days. Just look back at the last time he faced the Chargers and the three turnovers he committed. The Bengals are s great team when he's on his game and a bad team when he's off it.
Prediction: Bengals 27, Chargers 21
The Bengals are great in the regular season—just not in the postseason. That's been the story for the past couple of seasons, and I expect it to hold true against the Chargers on Sunday.
Odds Shark indicates that Cincinnati is favored by oddsmakers as the home team, and it's a natural reaction to place faith in the host to get it done in front of the home crowd.
The Chargers don't match up well against Cincinnati's rushing attack on defense, and Dalton has had San Diego's number in the regular season with a 2-0 record against the Chargers for his career. This will still be a competitive game down to the last few minutes, but the Bengals will take it in their home opener.