Cincinnati Bengals (6-5 SU, 5-5-1 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers (4-7 SU, 4-6-1 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Sunday, December 2, 4:25 p.m. EST
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
TV: CBS/DTV 716
by Vesper Abadon, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cin -1.5/SD +1.5
Over/Under Total: 46
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Don't look now, but the Cincinnati Bengals are 6-5 and contending for the Playoffs. The 9-2 Baltimore Ravens will likely win the AFC North, but with the Pittsburgh Steelers struggling, the Bengals are primed to make a run at a Wildcard spot. This week they'll travel to the Southwest to take on the 4-7 San Diego Chargers, who lost a heartbreaker in overtime last week to the aforementioned Ravens.
How've the Bengals flown under the radar for so long? Right now they have the 13th-best offense after averaging 358.5 total yards per game (YPG). That includes the 12th-ranked passing game and 14th-ranked rushing game, averaging 244.5 YPG and 113.9 YPG respectively. Those are better than average numbers.
Second-year quarterback Andy Dalton sits just outside the top ten quarterbacks at #11 with a 94 rating. He has completed 63.4% of his passes, going 237 of 374 for 2,769 yards and 23 touchdowns; although, he has thrown 11 interceptions and has been sacked 26 times. Helping him out are wide receivers A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham. The former is already over 1,000 years on the season (1,022 to be exact), averages 15.3 yards per catch after hauling in 67 receptions, and has ten touchdowns, while Gresham has 47 catches for 558 yards (11.9 AVG) and four touchdowns.
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Former New England Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, often called the "Lawfirm", has been shouldering the load on the ground, carrying 201 times for 767 yards (3.8 AVG) and five touchdowns. Complimenting him is Cedric Peerman, who has carried 29 times for an impressive 240 yards (8.3 AVG) and a touchdown.
The Bengals are pretty good on the defensive side of the ball too, allowing 334.5 total YPG, including 218.4 passing YPG and 116.1 YPG-good enough to be ranked ninth in the NFL. However, the Chargers are no slouches themselves in that department, coming in right behind at #10, allowing 334.7 YPG (243.3 passing YPG and 91.5 rushing YPG).
With that said, the Chargers trail the Bengals in every offensive department. They're ranked a lowly 25th overall, which includes the 18th-ranked and 25th-ranked passing and rushing offenses respectively. The Chargers average a total of 324.4 YPG, including 224.9 passing YPG. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been having an satisfactory year, completing 251 of 376 passes for 2,689 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions-good enough for a 13th-best 88.0 QB rating-though he has been sacked 32 times. When he does get the ball out, it tends to go to either wide receiver Malcolm Floyd or tight end Antonio Gates. The former with 47 catches for 704 yards (15 AVG) and four scores, and the latter with 32 receptions for 368 yards (11.5 AVG) and four scores of his own.
The Chargers' passing game is mediocre at best, but their ground game is dreadful as they average just 99.5 YPG. Their leading rusher is Ryan Matthews, who has carried 146 times for 594 yards (4.1 AVG) and a touchdown, while Jackie Battle has carried 52 times for 222 yards (4.3 AVG) and three touchdowns.
Vesper Abadon's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Going on the road, especially across the country, is never easy. With that said, the Bengals are 3-2 when visiting opponents, and they just walloped the Oakland Raiders at home. Simply put, they're confident and have something to play for-the Playoffs.
The same can't be said of the Chargers, who just lost a heartbreak in overtime. Say what you will, that's demoralizing. They're essentially out of Playoff contention, and the future of their head coach, Norv Turner, is up in the air. Big things were expected from the Chargers this year, but all they've managed to do is disappoint.
The Chargers have the capability of playing tough, so by no means will this be a blowout; in fact, it has the making of shootout. I expect the Chargers' front seven to hold the "Lawfirm" in check, which will force Dalton to take to the air, and Rivers will be forced to do the same for the Chargers. It's a thin line, but I think the Bengals will pull out a win and come one step closer to the post season.
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