San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals Spread Pick
Opening Line: Bengals -6.5
San Diego needed OT to defeat Kansas City's backups 27-24 last week. Cincinnati looked strong in a 34-17 win over Baltimore last Sunday. The Bengals defeated the Chargers 17-10 in Week 13 at San Diego.
The Chargers scored only 10 points in the first game and know they have to do better than that this week. They have turned to RB Ryan Mathews in recent weeks and he has played well. Despite the loss of Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins (IR), the Bengals run defense has held up (96.5 ypg). They are even better at home. Look for the Bengals to try and keep Mathews in check early and force the offense to rely mainly on the pass. QB Philip Rivers has had one of his best seasons ever in 2013 and needs to have a big game this week. Three Chargers had 70+ receptions this season but only rookie WR Keenan Allen is a downfield threat. Allen had a big game in Week 13 and Cincinnati has to do a better job of defending him. RB Danny Woodhead and TE Antonio Gates have done a good job of moving the chains but aren't gamebreakers. San Diego's O-line allowed 19 fewer sacks in 2013 over 2012 but face a big test against a D-line that regularly gets pressure on opposing QBs.
Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton threw four picks last week but still helped guide the team to 34 points. Dalton threw 33 TD passes this year, one more than Rivers. He knows he can't duplicate last week's performance this week though and have success. Despite the presence of No.1 WR A.J. Green (98-1,426-11), Dalton has done a great job of getting all of his receivers involved. WRs Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu have played well in their second year in the league and the TE duo of Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert combined for 85-906-6. The wild card could be 5'7” WR Andrew Hawkins. He has missed most of the year with injuries but his talents were on display last week (3 catches, 74 yards). He has the speed and quickness to exploit most defenses and should make plays against this vulnerable secondary. Dalton was not sacked in the earlier matchup. The key to the earlier win for Cincinnati was the ground game. They churned up 164 yards on the ground as both RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Gio Bernard were productive. San Diego's run defense has gotten better in recent weeks but they still are far from elite. The Bengals will stick with the run and force the Chargers to honor it.
ATS Game Pick
Cincinnati was 11-5 on the season but 8-0 at home. They averaged almost 38 points per game at Paul Brown Stadium and play with real confidence. San Diego was very lucky to make the playoffs and only a blown call by the officials got them into the postseason. Rivers has had a great year but he is facing a very good defense in what should be inclement weather. The number is high but this Bengals team is just a different animal when they are at home.
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