The San Diego Chargers had all the pieces fall their way in Week 17 in order to earn a ticket to ride on the Road to MetLife Stadium. The first stop for the Chargers is today as they face the Cincinnati Bengals in Wildcard Weekend. This will be the second time in NFL history these two teams will square off in the playoffs. The last time, in January 1981 in the AFC Championship Game, a game affectionately known as the Freezer Game where wind chills dropped to -59 degrees.
The Cincinnati Bengals finished the season 8-0 at home. The last time they finished perfect at home, was 1988, the last time they advanced to the playoffs. Cincinnati covered the spread in every home game this season and scored 34 or more points in their last five home contests.
Conversely, the San Diego Chargers have some Super Bowl aspirations. From 2009-2012, the first team the Philadelphia Eagles hosted in the first home game of the regular season, have all gone on to win the Super Bowl that season. New orleans in 2009, Green Bay in 2010, New York Giants in 2011 and the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. The Eagles first home opponent this year? The San Diego Chargers.
San Diego started the season with two last minute losses. After a rough patch in the mid-season, the Chargers rebounded to win their final four games. RB Ryan Mathews finally had a breakout season and finished the season as the best running back no one was talking about. In his last four games, he carried the ball 29, 29, 25 and 24 times respectively.
QB Philip Rivers had struggled through the 2011 and 2012 season with a massive amount of turnovers. Under offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, Rivers rebounded to throw for nearly 4,500 yards, 32 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.
For the Bengals, the team struggled through some key defensive injuries during the regular season to return to the playoffs for the third straight year. QB Andy Dalton is not only looking for his first career postseason victory, but his first playoff touchdown. LB Vontaze Burfict had a record year, recording 171 tackles during the regular season.
While the first playoff meeting between the two teams was marred by frigid weather, the rematch will see temperatures in the mid 30’s with intermittent rain with the mercury plummeting this evening.
Vegas line- Cincinnati Bengals -7 46 points
As in the 1981 season, these two teams met during the regular season. The Bengals defeated the Chargers 17-10 in Week 13. I believe the front seven of the Bengals should be able to handle the offensive line of the Chargers.
QB Andy Dalton 18-32 240 yards 2 td 1 int
QB Philip Rivers 24-43 320 yards 2td 1int
Bengals 34-26 as they continue down the Road to MetLife Stadium