Week 13 Chargers Vs. Bengals X-Factors
I feel like whether it’s win or lose, I sound like a broken record with what this Chargers team needs to work on. For a team with so much elite talent, they lack depth, discipline, and in-game adjustments. I understand that Denver is a difficult to play and I can give them a pass on it to a certain extent. If it was the first time I wouldn’t be concerned, but too many weaknesses cannot be overcome with a great quarterback, it just can’t be done.
The task gets even more difficult this week. The Chargers have to travel to a tough Cincinnati team and play an early game across the country, something that is notoriously known across the NFL as being very difficult. The Bengals are coming off a great win where they thoroughly dominated the Steelers, the team the Chargers almost lost to the week before.
Let’s get into the x-factors to this game of how the Chargers can take advantage of this situation and come away with a win.
X-Factor 1: Help the quarterback
There aren’t many quarterbacks in the league that are asked to do as much as Justin Herbert. Let’s not confuse this as well, I am happy with how much is asked of Herbert because he is the best player on this team and should be the one to dictate how the offense is going to go. That being said, people have to help him out. Only 3 teams in the NFL have fewer rushing attempts than the Chargers, while I love throwing the ball and being aggressive in that way, it makes the Chargers one-dimensional and teams know what is coming. Austin Ekeler is incredible, but he is not the type of running back that can consistently carry the ball 15-20 times each game between the tackles. He even said during the week that his body is becoming physically exhausted. The Chargers desperately need to figure out their 2nd string running back as soon as possible or these problems are going to persist.
Now the more troubling stats, the Chargers currently have one of the best offenses in the NFL at converting first downs per set of downs and converting drives into touchdowns. They are 6th in points per drive and 2nd in touchdowns per drive. I actually just threw out some good stats, but what is truly troubling and a huge issue I have with this team, the Chargers are dead last in the NFL in overall drives. I haven’t even thrown in the fact that they lead the NFL in drops. When you take all the different issues that Herbert has to deal with, the fact of how efficient this is is incredible.
What the Chargers are asking Herbert to do is watch his defense get slowly sliced up and down the field, score points while taking so much time off the clock, and then expect him to answer every time, and if he doesn’t they lose. Herbert obviously has his issues and hasn’t been playing his best but this team has to help him now. Quite plain and simple all this team has to do is get a couple of extra stops early in the possession or create some turnovers and the Chargers win. This team has to help him out.
X-Factor 2: Get pressure on Burrow
I wish the Chargers would correct some of their issues so I could talk about new things, but not much has changed throughout the course of the season. The Chargers are always good for a few pressures and sometimes a sack from Joey Bosa, but there isn’t any consistency outside of that. This Bengals team has an incredible rushing attack and if that gets going it’s going to open up everything for Joe Burrow. We have seen this season with the Bengals that when their offense is on it is very difficult to stop and quite the opposite when it’s off, they are pretty bad. Burrow is 2nd in the NFL in interceptions, throwing 12 in his teams first 11 games. There is a lot of talk that Burrow is “calm and collected” under pressure, but he is 4th in the NFL in throwing 5 interceptions while he is under pressure.
From what I have watched from Burrow this year (and I’m a big fan), he makes exceptional, consistent plays for the majority of the game. However, there are times where he feels that he has to do too much it seems and that’s where he gets in trouble. I love Burrow but there is a reason why he is 21st in the NFL in passing attempts, he doesn’t have to do as much with such a good rushing offense. We saw how much the mood of a game can change last week after Derwin James had the massive hit on Teddy Bridgewater. A couple of plays later with Drew Lock coming in, Bosa laid a hit on him and he fumbled. I don’t want to dwell with what happened after that, but on both of those plays, Bridgewater nearly fumbled and Lock did fumble, that is what’s important to remember. The more aggressive this team is eventually those 50/50 balls will eventually go their way. Burrow is obviously prone to making mistakes and with a defense that hasn’t been very opportunistic this year, they have a great chance to get right if they can make Burrow uncomfortable from the beginning of the game.
X-Factor 3: Be average on special teams
You could even add the defense to this one but I have talked about them quite a bit. This one might seem slightly silly, but I am dead serious. Like I have highlighted this team has a great offense that is capable of putting up points in bunches, but there are so many other weaknesses on this team. While the Chargers are at the bottom of the league in many major defensive categories, it’s not any better on special teams. I know everyone knows about that famous 2010 Chargers team with the #1 offense and defense in the NFL but one of the worst special teams in the history of football made them not make the playoffs. While they aren’t as bad as they were then, it’s actually kind of close.
People always forget special teams when talking about the important aspects of the game, it obviously isn’t as important as a good offense or defense. The more I have thought about that, while I believe it’s true, it is so much closer than I ever originally thought. There is a reason why the Patriots, probably the best dynasty in the history of sports, were consistently at the top of the NFL in special teams DVOA year after year. This goes back to what I was talking about earlier with how much the Chargers ask of Herbert.
The Chargers are again dead last in the NFL in special teams DVOA, a mark they have held for the 3rd straight season. Special teams are a big reason why the Steelers almost came back with the blocked punt that led to a touchdown. A big reason why the Chargers were never able to get back in the game last week was when they ran into the punter when they were going to get the ball back with 2 minutes before halftime. It is unbelievable that across 2 different coaching staffs the unit still has the same issues. Among teams 3 units, they are hardly on the field compared to the other 2, there is absolutely no reason that this unit should be drastically impacting games the way that they are. All I am asking is that the Chargers be average, that’s it. They can even be below average and be between 20-25. They are consistently giving teams good field position, giving Herbert bad field position, and impacting the game in such a negative way that it is losing them games. This is a topic that I could go on for such a long time, but I digress.
As you can see, I am frustrated. I stopped going into that they need to stop the run and get off the field on 3rd down more but it seems like the inevitable. I’m not saying the sky is falling like some fans, and I believe this team will still make the playoffs since the AFC isn’t spectacular. All I’m saying is that I hope this team makes some changes this week, things we have been waiting for all season. I am at the point however where I don’t trust the staff but ultimately don’t trust our depth and a lot of the players that have to step on the field. I believe that the Chargers will get right eventually but there are too many things working against them in this game Sunday.
Bengals 31 Chargers 21