The Chiefs couldn’t stay healthy and hang on to win a playoff game for the first time in 20 years so now it’s up to the Bengals to be the team to break its generation-long losing streak in the postseason. After back-to-back years of kicking off Wild Card Weekend with Saturday losses to the Texans, the NFL has finally decided that people want to watch the Bengals in the playoffs and gave them a Sunday game for a change.
As with Chiefs-Colts, this is situation where the home team has a win over the visitor on the road in recent weeks. The Week 13 Bengals win in San Diego marks the last time the Chargers lost. Cincinnati enters the postseason having won five of their last six, the only defeat being a loss in Pittsburgh when Cincy had multiple special teams breakdowns.
The Chargers made the playoffs with a first-year coach with no expectations, so in a way they’re playing with house money. Philip Rivers had perhaps his best statistical season and found his lucky rhinestone cowboy get-up. He’s wearing the bolo tie again today, for what it’s worth.
There isn’t a lot of faith in San Diego since they barely beat a bunch of backups to advance to the playoffs but the team had three road wins over playoff teams during the regular season. There’s little danger that the Bengals will dismantle their team should they lose their first playoff game for the third year in a row, though I can’t imagine it will do wonders for the team’s confidence in Andy Dalton as their long-term answer at quarterback.
As you might imagine with an 11-5 team that went undefeated at home, they got much better quarterback play at Paul Brown Stadium. Dalton has had some wild swings in production this season. He had a three-week stretch where he threw for 11 touchdowns and two interceptions then followed it up with another three-week span in which he had five touchdowns and eight picks. Just when he had a string of good performances toward the end of the year, he dropped a four-interception outing against Baltimore last week.