NFL Pick: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Cincinnati Bengals (5-7 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date/Time: Sunday, December 9, 2018 at 4:05PM EST
Where: ROKiT Field at StubHub Center, Carson, California
Point Spread: CIN +14/LAC -14
Over/Under Total: 47.5
The Cincinnati Bengals come to the west coast on Sunday to take on the Los Angeles Chargers in Carson. The Bengals saw their losing streak reach 4 games on Sunday with an ugly 24-10 loss to the Broncos, the 6th loss in their last 7 games. With a lot of key injuries, they’re now a far cry from the team that started the season at 4-1. On Sunday Night Football, the Chargers came from way off the pace to score a key road-win in a 33-30 triumph over the Steelers. The win moved them to 9-3, as they look to continue the good momentum. I like the Chargers to cover the spread at home this week.
What the Win Meant for the Chargers Last Week
Heading into last week, the Chargers were a team that had a good record but was still unproven at the highest levels. They hadn’t beaten a team that was over .500 in their conference, with their best win probably being against Seattle. In beating Pittsburgh, they showed they can top a good AFC team, doing in on the road. Making it sweeter is that until deep in the third quarter, it looked to be a romp for the Steelers. Not only were they ahead 23-7, but it seemed like it could have easily been 34-7 if not for big plays from tremendous rookie safety Derwin James and others. They stormed back on the arm of Philip Rivers and a punt return for a TD from Desmond King. And even as it looked like they might blow it late after the Steelers got the tying score with just over four minutes left, they went down the field and set up Michael Badgley for a game-winning FG. There was drama late, and we saw a Chargers’ team steely deliver in the clutch—a big step for this team. I would expect the win to serve as a galvanizing moment.
Cincinnati: Worse than Their Record
After a 4-1 start, Cincinnati is officially sideways. They’re not a team that was built to withstand the loss of their quarterback, as they now have Jeff Driskel starting. We saw AJ Green injured again on Sunday, depriving them of another piece. On defense, Vontaze Burfict went down with a concussion, as nothing went right. Watching them get chewed up by Denver’s run-game makes one think what might be in the store this week on the road, especially if the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon returns.
On offense, the Bengals are without compelling weaponry, especially with their top contributors injured. They were shaky enough under ideal conditions, but now, it’s nearly a lost cause. In the past, you could at least count on the Cincy “D” keeping them in games. This season, they are ranked either last or next-to-last in total defense, run-defense, pass-defense, points allowed, and the list goes on. With their offense struggling to find its direction, it could feed right into the hands of a playmaking Chargers’ defense. Joey Bosa had another sack on Sunday, as their pass-rush should make big problems for a demoralized Bengals’ offensive line. And a playmaking secondary could feast on Driskel on Sunday.
Is There Silver Lining for the Bengals?
On offense, the Bengals are in dire straits. Driskel is clearly not up to NFL standards as a longterm solution, but at least he’s not turning the ball over. Tyler Boyd has turned into a really good receiver, as he nears 1000 yards on the season. Running back Joe Mixon is showing signs of life over the past month and could spring forward with something nice, as long as the Bengals aren’t playing from way behind right off the bat. On defense, it’s hard to tout a group that has fallen to the absolute bottom of the league, but they have a playmaking element. Jessie Bates has three picks, while Shawn Williams has four. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap can still get after quarterbacks. How will that resonate this week?
Containing All the Chargers’ Weapons
With the Bengals not able to stop much of late, how does that bode this week against a Bolts’ offense that can get you in any number of ways? With Gordon out, the work fell into the hands of Austin Ekeler and burgeoning Justin Jackson without much fall-off on Sunday. Aerially, the dogged Rivers flexes a variety of weapons with Keenan Allen huge on Sunday night, along with Tyrell Williams, rising Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, and the running backs. Cincinnati has been struggling to contain lesser aerial offenses, portending major problems this Sunday.
Avoiding the Obvious
So often in an NFL season, we stumble on a storyline that is so obvious that of course, it doesn’t pay off. It’s the nature of NFL betting, continually reminding us that if it were so easy and apparent, everyone would be getting rich off it. Here we see a potential example of that. The Chargers are coming off a high point of what has been a successful season. All the pieces are in place for big things to happen and they have to be feeling good about themselves. And on the opposite sideline is a Bengals’ team that wouldn’t appear to match up well with the Chargers in any area. They are crestfallen—reeling from a huge slide after a 4-1 start where nothing has gone right, and they’ve lost most of their artillery. As obvious as it has been, though, the Bengals still have covered just one spread since October 7, so the point spreads are slow to catch up to how bad the Bengals have really become.
Lay the Points on the Home Favorite
The Chargers’ defense has been clutch and making a lot of plays, which should keep the Bengals’ offense somewhat subdued. Even if the Bengals were to manage 21 points, the defense still has to put a lid on a Chargers’ offense that has put up 78 points in the last two weeks and is functioning like a finely tuned machine. While the Bengals continue to lose key piece after piece, the Chargers grow stronger. I see a rough spot here on both sides of the ball for the Bengals, as the Chargers push it to ten wins and get the cover at home.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Los Angeles Chargers minus 14 points. Don’t want to lay 14 points? Tease this bet down to -7 or less at one of our recommended teaser sportsbooks.