As the season turns to the final quarter, the Bengals need a fourth-quarter rally.
It’s been a tough stretch for the Bengals losing four straight and dealing with a significant number of injuries. However, the Bengals are not eliminated from playoff contention.
The Bengals look to get back on track when they travel west to face the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.
Here are the three things to watch:
1. Driskel’s Next Steps – It was a solid first NFL start for Jeff Driskel. He completed 25 of his 38 pass attempts for 236 yards in a 24-10 loss to the Broncos in Week 13. He threw one touchdown and one interception in the contest. Now after looking at film, Driskel and the Bengals offense get another chance to put up points against the Chargers who are allowing 20.8 points per game.
"I really thought that there were some positives — a lot of positives," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "I thought he was working hard to play on time, and he has to continue to do that. Around him, we have to keep raising the level (of play)."
2. Building Blocks – One of the positive takeaways from the Week 13 game against Denver was the strong defensive line play of second-year pro Jordan Willis and rookie Sam Hubbard. Willis had a sack and a fumble recovery against the Broncos, while Hubbard also had a sack and two quarterback pressures. Both have looked like great value picks in the third round (Willis in 2017 and Hubbard in 2018).
On the offensive side, the Bengals’ young wide receivers took advantage of their opportunity after A.J. Green went down with a toe injury. Tyler Boyd continues to have a Pro Bowl campaign leading the Bengals this season with 69 catches for 938 yards and six scores. Outside of Boyd, there will be plenty of chances for the 24-and-under group of receivers like John Ross, Cody Core and Auden Tate.
3. Third Down Defense – It might not be noticeable, but there has been steady improvement in this area with Lewis as the defensive coordinator.
When Lewis took over the Bengals were a league-worst on third down letting opponents convert 56.2 percent of the time. In the three games with Lewis as the defensive coordinator, teams are successful only 46.1 percent of the time.
“Defensively, I thought we made some progress with third down. We have to keep being better at it," said Lewis.
Surprisingly this is one area the Chargers have struggled with this season. While quarterback Phillip Rivers and company have the NFL’s sixth highest-scoring offense, Los Angeles ranks 16th on third downs converting 39.2 percent of the time.
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air on CBS. In the Bengals’ home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Trent Green (analyst), Bruce Arians (analyst) and Melanie Collins (sideline reporter).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).