Los Angeles Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Pick & Prediction SEP 13TH 2020

Complete TV: CBS Paul Brown Stadium Cincinnati
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472Bengals Cincinnati
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Sunday's season-opening contest between the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium marks a number of firsts -- and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The AFC matchup in Cincinnati marks a return to competition after a training camp period without preseason games. For the Chargers, it's also the franchise's first game without Philip Rivers on the roster since the end of the 2003 season.


After 16 seasons in the organization, 14 as its starting quarterback, Rivers signed with the Indianapolis Colts in March. The Chargers drafted University of Oregon product Justin Herbert with the No. 6 pick, making him the third quarterback taken overall in 2020. He might be the heir apparent, but Herbert will not start in Week 1.


That honor goes to Tyrod Taylor, a 10-year NFL veteran and Rivers' backup a season ago.


"We've had a lot of time to get the work in. This August, we worked intentionally to be as good as we can in each situation thrown at us," Taylor said in his press conference after being named the Week 1 starter. "With the tight ends, receivers and running backs, the chemistry is there."


As for the first quarterback taken in the 2020 draft, and the No. 1 pick overall, 2019 Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow makes his pro debut as both the starter and a captain for the Bengals.


"Joe's a winner. People say he only did it for one year, but that one year was unbelievable," said Chargers coach Anthony Lynn. "I don't see him slowing down much in this league."


Burrow passed for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns while leading LSU to the national championship. While the highly touted rookie faces a learning curve ahead of his pro debut, he told reporters at his Aug. 30 press conference his primary concern stems from having not had preseason opportunities due to the pandemic.


"The one thing I think I am a little worried about is not getting hit until the first game," he said. "I've been lobbying to be live in one of these scrimmages."


Not risking an injury before game week, Burrow's lobbying has been unsuccessful. Cincinnati already faces some injury uncertainty on offense with wide receiver John Ross III questionable due to an arm injury, and running back Joe Mixon questionable as a result of a head injury.


Los Angeles faces its own injury uncertainties, particularly on the offensive line with center Mike Pouncey and guard Trai Turner both listed as questionable.


Lynn declared wide receiver Mike Williams "a game-time decision" due to a shoulder injury. Williams caught 10 touchdowns in 2018, and averaged more than 20 yards per reception en route to breaking the 1,000-yard mark in 2019.


Cincinnati, meanwhile, is on track to welcome back wide receiver A.J. Green for the first time since the 2018 season. Green missed the entire 2019 campaign with ligament damage in his ankle.


Green sustained a minor hamstring injury in training camp, but is listed as probable. His return coinciding with the debut of Burrow gives decided intrigue to a Bengals offense that ranked No. 26 in the NFL for yards gained a season ago.


"Joe, he's going to be great for the next 15 years," Green said in a press conference last month. "For him, it's just getting that rhythm. We're always talking: 'How do you like this ball? How do you like this route?'"


--Field Level Media


Los Angeles Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

An offensive pass interference penalty on a would-be go-ahead touchdown and the ensuing missed field goal attempt spoiled the debut of No. 1 draft pick Joe Burrow, and the Los Angeles Chargers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13 Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Burrow, who went 23-of-36 passing for 193 yards with an interception in his pro debut, led a torrid final drive that covered 79 yards in less than three minutes. He capped the possession with a three-yard strike to wide receiver A.J. Green near the pylon, but Green was flagged for pushing off Chargers defensive back Casey Hayward.

Green, playing for the first time since 2018, caught five passes for a team-high 51 yards.

Bengals kicker Randy Bullock, who made his previous 24 field goal attempts including two earlier on Sunday, then pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury as he badly missed a 31-yard attempt to force overtime.

The win marked a reversal of fortunes from a season ago for Los Angeles (1-0), which went 2-9 in games decided by one score.

The Chargers escaped behind an outstanding defensive effort, which included a pair of critical turnovers in the second half.

Denzel Perryman dislodged the ball from Joe Mixon, ending the Cincinnati running back's streak of 622 consecutive touches without a fumble. Nick Vigil fell on the loose ball in Cincinnati territory, which led to Michael Badgley's third successful field goal of the afternoon and a Chargers' 16-13lead in the fourth quarter.

Burrow scored on a 23-yard run in the first quarter, sprung free to pay dirt off of a Trey Hopkins block. It was the lone touchdown in a first half that saw the Chargers hold the Bengals to just 88 yards of offense.

Cincinnati (0-1) made its second score on a Bullock field goal in the third quarter, but the kick came as a result of missed touchdown opportunities. Twice, Burrow overthrew receivers who beat deep coverage.

With two promising Bengal drives stalling and turning into field goals, Los Angeles capitalized. A 45-yard Joe Reed kickoff return set up a short field for Tyrod Taylor. The quarterback, who went 16-of-30 for 208 yards, led a drive that capped with rookie running back Joshua Kelley scoring on a five-yard run to tie it 13-13.

The Bengals again left points on the board in the fourth quarter when, driving into Chargers territory, Melvin Ingram intercepted a rushed shovel pass from Burrow.

--Field Level Media