Chargers-Bengals Odds, NFL Predictions, Picks: Justin Herbert Has Edge to Cover vs. Joe Burrow in Week 13

Chargers-Bengals Odds, NFL Predictions, Picks: Justin Herbert Has Edge to Cover vs. Joe Burrow in Week 13 article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Chargers QB Justin Herbert and Bengals QB Joe Burrow (left to right)

  • With the Chargers holding steady as 3-point underdogs for their matchup against the Bengals, where's the value on this Week 13 spread?
  • Our analyst breaks down updated Chargers vs. Bengals odds in order to make his predictions and picks below.

Chargers vs. Bengals Odds

Chargers Odds+3
Bengals Odds-3
Time1 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.

For the first time, the two best quarterbacks of the 2020 draft class will meet on the field. These teams did face off last season, but Tyrod Taylor got the start for the Chargers in Week 1.

The line on that game? Chargers -3. That number has flipped this time around, with the young Bengals having improved quite a bit since then.

We expect these teams to be priced fairly similarly, but is there an edge? Each of these teams have played the Steelers over the past two weeks. The Chargers were -6 at home, while Cincinnati was -3.5 at Paul Brown Stadium. That doesn't translate to Bengals -3 here.

Click the arrow to expand injury reports

Chargers vs. Bengals Injury Report

Chargers Injuries

  • CB Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion): Out
  • S Alohi Gilman (quadricep): Out

Bengals Injuries

  • WR Auden Tate (calf): Doubtful
  • WR Mike Thomas (illness): Doubtful
  • RB Chris Evans (ankle): Doubtful
  • DE Khalid Kareem (illness): Doubtful
  • C Trey Hopkins (ankle): Questionable
  • T Riley Rieff (ankle): Questionable

Chargers vs. Bengals Matchup

Chargers OffenseDVOA RankBengals Defense
Chargers DefenseDVOA RankBengals Offense
Football Outsiders' DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team's success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.

Undervalued Chargers Can Score on Cincinnati

Something feels off with this Los Angeles offense recently. Despite having elite talent around Herbert in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler, the Chargers' output has been somewhat underwhelming.

One potential reason for the decline is an injured offensive line. The right side of the line has been hurt throughout the season, and left guard Matt Feiler was missing last week against the Broncos. He's back this week, though, which gives Los Angeles its top-choice line at every position.

Good pass protection is extremely important to Los Angeles considering its heavy reliance on late-down efficiency. Check out the splits for this offense on early vs. late downs:

  • Early Downs: 15th Success Rate (46%), 17th in EPA per play (.042)
  • Late Downs: Fifth Success Rate (52%), third in EPA per play (.342)

Like offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's offenses in New Orleans with Drew Brees, this team relies on the short passing game. Herbert should be better than 27th in Air Yards among qualified quarterbacks, though, given his arm and offensive weapons. Still, the approach has largely worked with Los Angeles ranking in the top 10 by most predictive metrics.

Cincinnati will present a tough test, ranking seventh in EPA per play. The Bengals are only one of eight teams allowing negative EPA per play.

The numbers may not tell the entire story here. Cincinnati has faced an extremely easy slate of opposing offenses so far this year. Only four teams it has faced have an above-average offense by my numbers — Minnesota, Green Bay, Baltimore and Las Vegas.

The Chargers have the ability to score points. With Feiler back in the mix to help block D.J. Reader and the Bengals interior, Los Angeles should be able to get its passing game going once again.

How Will Bengals Attack L.A.'s Defense?

Joe Mixon and his fantasy managers have to be salivating this week. The Chargers are dead last in both EPA per rush and rushing success rate allowed. They give up a successful run on 51% of attempts, which is 4% higher than the 31st-ranked team. Los Angeles' linebackers are bad — this team doesn't tackle very well and it gets gashed because of it.

The Bengals have no problem running the ball a lot, despite their explosive passing offense. The Bengals run on early downs at the eighth-highest rate in the NFL. Running the ball on early downs is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can lead to some inefficient drives and more third-down conversions. Of course, it helps when you play the Chargers.

It was a big blow to the Chargers when defensive tackle Linval Joseph was ruled out since he's their best run stopper and interior pressure generator, which is significant against a team like the Bengals that has a weak offensive line. However, his loss may be offset by some of the injuries on the Bengals offensive line.

nfl survivor pool-picks-bengals-patriots-eagles-week-12-2021
Chris Unger/Getty Images. Pictured: Bengals RB Joe Mixon, Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase

Cincinnati is likely without center Trey Hopkins and right tackle Riley Reiff this weekend since both are listed as questionable and neither practiced all week.

This is a Cincinnati offensive line that has probably outperformed expectations but still ranks 31st in pass block win rate and is average in the running game. Without Reiff in particular, this gives Joey Bosa a potential matchup with an inexperienced backup like Isaiah Prince. Rookie Trey Hill is likely to start for Hopkins.

In the passing game? When adjusted for opponents, both Cincinnati's passing offense and L.A.'s passing defense are league average from an EPA per play and success rate standpoint. The Bengals have played a lot of iffy defenses this year, boosting their offensive numbers to heights that are probably not indicative of their actual quality.

Chargers vs. Bengals Predictions, Picks

These teams are very similar, with young quarterbacks and coaches, as well as excellent pass-catching options. The similarities don't stop there, though, as these two teams have performed at very similar levels this season.

While the raw numbers favor the Bengals, Cincinnati has played one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, while the Chargers have faced one of the tougher schedules. It's easy to give up on Los Angeles after watching that meltdown in Denver, but the NFL is a week-to-week league. We cannot let the most recent game dictate our worldview on a given team.

There are a lot of ways to attack this game from a betting perspective. We'll start with the side. Given how close these two teams are (I have them rated nearly equally, as does DVOA), and how little home-field advantage has mattered this season, there is value in taking the points with the Chargers.

As of Saturday, +3 is widely available. I'd even consider staking some of your bet on the moneyline, which is available as high as +145. This implies the Chargers only have a 41% chance of winning this game, which is steep to me given how little separation there is between the two.

Pick: Chargers +3 | Bet to: +3 (-120)

Pick: Moneyline +145 | Bet to: +125

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