On Sunday in Cincinatti, the Chargers will try to win their first road game of the season to go 2-0 to start the year.
Here's what to watch for:
ON THE ROAD AGAIN:
The Chargers may have come back from an 18-point deficit against the Lions Sunday, but doing that on the road is often a much tougher test. This is the Bengals' first home game of the season and it's a loud, passionate crowd in Cincy. San Diego needs to be careful to not fall in a hole early.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers didn't play in either of the two preseason away games, so this will be the first time he plays with the first-unit offense on the road. The veteran QB is no stranger to crowd noise or playing in enemy territory, but the Chargers have a number of young players who will be playing on the road -- (in a game that counts) -- for the first time with the organization. There’s an element of routine and focus that needs to be established.
For the most part, there’s also less wiggle room when you’re not on home turf.
“The really good teams win on the road,” Rivers said Wednesday.
Cincinnati has a defense that is disciplined, experienced and physical. Three-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Geno Atkins anchors a front that notched 20 sacks last season. Cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones is a pest in the secondary, which also includes Darqueze Dennard and Leon Hall. Defensive end Michael Johnson is a strong run defender and teammate Carlos Dunlap had eight sacks in 2014 and continues to be a force in his seventh NFL season.
The Bengals had two sacks last week at Oakland.
In the Bengals’ season opener at Oakland, quarterback Andy Dalton completed 25-of-34 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. With offensive threats like wide receiver A.J. Green (five catches for 63 yards last week) and tight end Tyler Eifert (nine catches for 109 yards) and a strong running back duo (Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard, who each ran for 63 yards apiece against the Raiders), it’s an offense that can be both dynamic and balanced.
Chargers strong safety Jahleel Addae didn't practice all week (ankle) and is listed as "doubtful" for Sunday's game. Expect Jimmy Wilson to get a healthy number of snaps in his absence.
"Like any player, [Jimmy] is getting more and more comfortable in the system the more he plays – and not just in practice, but the true live games, when things happen faster and you’ve got to make quicker decisions," head coach Mike McCoy said Friday. "It makes it a lot easier when you play back there with someone like Eric [Weddle], that is going to over communicate everything. And then you’ve got to be at the top of your game too, because he’s going to change things. He sees so many things on the field that some people don’t recognize and play as fast as Eric does. So you’ve got to be able to play at his speed at the back end also.”
Rookie outside linebacker Kyle Emanuel was limited all week and is listed as "questionable" for Sunday's game.
Right guard D.J. Fluker is out with an ankle injury, and in his place is Chris Hairston, who last started a game in 2012 (and had never played guard in an NFL game before Sunday, having been a swing tackle with Buffalo). He -- and the rest of the line -- will have their hands full with a physical, experienced Bengals front seven.