Sunday’s Wild Card matchup between the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals is boiling down to a battle of quarterbacks. The trajectory of both quarterbacks has been remarkably similar and, for one of them at least, this match up will offer some vindication and boost their careers.
For Philip Rivers, this playoff game comes off a resurgent season throwing 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns this regular season. Rivers has a completion percentage of 69.5% , a rating of 105.5 , and the Chargers were ranked 4th in the league in passing. This season Rivers has helped turn around the Chargers offense under new coaching leadership and defeated other playoff contenders in the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, and Indianapolis Colts.
Rivers isn’t alone. Also having a solid season is running back Ryan Mathews who has his second career season rushing over 1,000 yards with a career high 1,255 yards and 6 touchdowns. Alongside him, Danny Woodhead has given Rivers an outlet receiver to dump the ball off to rather than risk an interception forcing the ball. Rivers has thrown only 11 interceptions this season and overall improved the offensive power of the Chargers.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their defense. They are ranked 23rd in overall defense, and go down to 29th defensively against passing. They struggle to defend against pass heavy offenses, something the Bengals most definitely rely upon.
Andy Dalton has had, like his entire career, a roller coaster season. Despite winning the AFC East division for the first time in years, Dalton has been taking most of the flack for the Bengals short comings this season. His 33 touchdowns have been matched with 20 interceptions, 13 of those coming in the last half of the season, and 4 coming last week against the Ravens.
In spite of this, and his consistent sporadic play, Dalton has reached the playoffs every season he’s played. But he’s yet to win. The difference now? The team around him. Last week the Bengals won with those 4 interceptions. They are also undefeated at home, where this Wild Card match will take place.
Helping Dalton on offense is star receiver A.J Green, though questionable for the game, he has 11 touchdowns and 1,426 yards this season. Marvin Jones has been keeping pace with another 10 touchdowns in the air as well.
Perhaps most helpful has been rookie running back Giovani Bernard. While splitting running back duties with the still dominant Benjarvis Green-Ellis, Bernard has rushed for almost 700 yards, making him a constant threat defenses have to look out for, and not a down off from defending Green-Ellis. The most important addition he has made is in the air. Another 514 yards on 56 receptions , he has combined for 8 touchdowns and gives Dalton a solid outlet receiver to throw to when he’s in the game.
Losing Geno Atkins and multiple players to injury hasn’t stopped the defense either. The Bengals are 3rd overall in defense and 5th in points allowed against opposing teams. The Bengals defense has helped them win games despite Dalton’s inconsistency.
The key to victory for both teams will ultimately lay in their defense. If the Bengals can keep pressure on Rivers and contain Ryan Mathews for limited gains, they can turn the ball over to their potent offense. Meanwhile, the Chargers defense has a much tougher task. They must utilize Dalton’s propensity for turnovers and turn them into points and keep the ball in their offense’s hands.
Either team stands to gain more than just a single playoff game. Wild Card game teams have been deceptively powerful, winning more Super Bowls than teams with first round byes in the last 10 years. These two quarterbacks can legitimize their careers with one victory over the other.
Author- Kristina Bravo
Categories: Fantasy Football