Matchup to watch: Rivers vs. Bengals D

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
4:59
PM ET
Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers head on the road to face the Cincinnati Bengals in a rematch of their Week 13 game in San Diego.

Let’s take a look at the key matchup for this Sunday’s AFC Wild Card game.

Rivers and Peyton Manning are the only quarterbacks who rank among the top five in completion percentage, passing touchdowns, yards per attempt and Total QBR this season. Rivers is completing an NFL-best 69.5 percent of his passes, the best completion percentage in his 10-year career.

Rivers will face a Bengals defense that has had success against the pass. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a Total QBR of 39.0 against the Bengals this season, third-lowest in the NFL.

Something has to give, as Rivers comes into the game with a Total QBR of 71.7, third-best in the NFL.

The value of home field
Something that cannot be overlooked is that the game is in Cincinnati, where the Bengals went 8-0 during the regular season.

A big reason for that undefeated record is their pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks posted a Total QBR of 18.8 against the Bengals in Cincinnati, lowest in the NFL this season.

In the last two weeks (both at home), the Bengals defense had six interceptions.

Who gets the better of it on 3rd down
This matchup could come down to third down, an area where both Rivers and the Bengals defense have thrived this season.

Rivers’ play on third down has been a driving factor in the Chargers four straight wins since losing to the Bengals in Week 13. He has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions on third down during the winning streak, the most such passing touchdowns since the start of Week 14. For the season, Rivers had the best completion percentage (65 percent) and the third best Total QBR (81.3) on third down.

The Bengals held opposing quarterbacks to a Total QBR of 14.4 on third down this season, lowest in the NFL. They are the only team to pick off Rivers on third down in the Chargers last 11 games. On third down passing attempts against the Bengals, opponents converted 34 percent, fifth-lowest in the NFL. The Chargers on the other hand, converted on third down an NFL-best 49 percent of the time when Rivers attempted a pass.

Completion percentage of high importance
If there is one statistic to keep an eye on, it’s Rivers’ overall completion percentage. When he completes at least two-thirds of his passes, the Chargers are 7-2. In the seven games Rivers completed less than two-thirds of his pass attempts, the Chargers went 2-5, including the Week 13 loss to the Bengals.

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