Week 13 of the NFL season is underway, and all of this week’s primetime games are must-watch football. The New Orleans Saints hosted the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football, when the Cowboys utterly dominated the struggling Saints. On Sunday Night Football, the Denver Broncos will visit the Kansas City Chiefs in a heated battle between divisional rivals. To wrap up the week, the Buffalo Bills will host the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. All of these matchups were (and will be) exciting for any football fan.
The Los Angeles Chargers have yet another difficult matchup this week. The Chargers are now 6-5 after an embarrassing loss to the Denver Broncos last week and lost four of their last six. They need this win to stop their downwards spiral. The Chargers travel to Cincinnati to face off against the Cincinnati Bengals. Are there any interesting matchups? Who are the players to watch? This is the Chargers-Bengals preview.
Rashawn Slater vs. Trey Hendrickson
It’s been a few weeks since the Chargers had a bonafide star-level player to face off with. Slater has lived up to his early 1st-round potential already, filling the much-needed left tackle role as soon as he arrived in L.A. So far this season, Slater has played in every single offensive snap for the Chargers. In those snaps, Slater was a brick wall, allowing only a single sack all season (on a sack that shouldn’t have really counted against him. Along with that, Slater has only committed four penalties on the season, which is far less than can be said about the rest of the offensive linemen. Slater continues to prove that he was well worth the value of a first-round pick.
Slater finished his brutal gauntlet earlier this season, but now he faces off against yet another star edge rusher. Trey Hendrickson is a lesser-known face among defensive ends, but that is by no means due to his level of performance. In 11 games played, Hendrickson has 24 tackles and 10.5 sacks (tied-6th), along with three forced fumbles (tied-5th). Hendrickson may not have much clout compared to other star defensive ends in the NFL, but he is definitely playing on their level.
Joe Mixon vs. Chargers’ Run Defense
Joe Mixon has played at an elite level in recent weeks for the Cincinnati Bengals. The veteran running back ran for over 100 yards in the past two games, along with four rushing touchdowns. Mixon’s level of play is among the best of the league, and Mixon is finally getting the credit he has long deserved. Paired with quarterback Joe Burrow and receiver Ja’marr Chase developing a rhythm, the Bengals’ offense looks unstoppable.
And, of course, the awful Chargers’ run defense faces off against Mixon when he is blistering-hot. The Chargers are off a terrible performance against the Broncos, in which the Chargers’ run defense allowed almost 150 rushing yards. The Chargers’ run defense are now dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, at 145.3. The second-worst run defense, the Houston Texans, allow more than 10 rushing yards less, on average, than the Chargers.
It’s a frustrating experience for Chargers fans, considering how much sheer talent the Chargers roster has. The Chargers’ run defense should be so much better, especially with a head coach like Brandon Staley. However, they seem to be unable to figure it out so far. It’s possible that Staley and Co. don’t figure it out for the rest of the season. That would not be ideal, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. If so, then the Chargers can look at an early playoff exit at best. However, an early playoff exit was sort of expected for some fans (myself included). Anything more than that was wishful thinking, and less than that would be insulting to the Chargers roster.
The Chargers will certainly have their hands full against the Bengals. The Bengals are off their dominant win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Chargers are off an embarrassing loss to the Denver Broncos. If both teams play like they did last week, this game will be an easy win for the Bengals. This will be a true test for Brandon Staley to see if he can revitalize his Bolt Squad. This has been the Chargers-Bengals preview.