The 10-3 Chargers can put a firm grip on the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs with a win over the visiting 9-4 Bengals on Sunday. Let’s look at three keys for San Diego in the game:
Don’t commit turnovers: The Chargers are the better team. They are more talented and they are playing better. They should beat the visiting Bengals. But the Bengals can win this game if they get some help from the Chargers. San Diego can’t be sloppy with the ball. If the Chargers finish their drives and score when they have opportunities, the Bengals won’t be able to keep up. But if San Diego gives the ball away and fails to score as much as it can, the Bengals could sneak away with a win.
Spread the wealth: San Diego needs everyone to have a big game on offense. Last week, receiver Vincent Jackson had a resurgence after experiencing a three-week production dip. Tight end Antonio Gates took over for Jackson when he slipped. Gates took a back seat last week when Jackson ravaged Dallas. The Chargers need to get both Jackson and Gates heavily involved in this crucial game while not giving up on the run game. San Diego has to throw everything it has at Cincinnati.
Stop the run: San Diego has allowed its share of yards on the ground this season. San Diego is ranked 21st in the NFL against the run, allowing 117.1 yards per game. Cincinnati will try to take advantage of the Chargers’ vulnerability against the run. Cincinnati is sixth in the NFL in rushing. It is averaging 132.8 yards a game. If the Bengals can run the ball right at San Diego, the Bengals can eat the clock, control the ball and keep the Chargers’ offense off the field. San Diego’s defense has to answer the challenge.