Joe Burrow will continue to burn the midnight oil in the hours leading up to Sunday’s game against the visiting Chargers, his first game as a starting quarterback. While he is still learning the nuances of the Chargers defense, Burrow clearly knows which defenders he needs to avoid if the Bengals are going to have success. 

“Obviously, they have [Joey] Bosa and [Melvin] Ingram, two of the best pass rushers in the league,” Borrow said of the Chargers’ formidable pass rushers. “So I’m going to have to get the ball out of my hands quickly and know what I’m looking at. If I don’t know what I’m looking at every snap, it’s going to be a long day. Those guys will get to me quick. But I know my O-line will be ready for it, and I’ll be ready for it as well.”

While he has never faced Ingram, Burrow is pretty familiar with Bosa, who was a teammate of his during Burrow’s freshman season at Ohio State. Since their time as teammates, Bosa has blossomed into one of the league’s premier pass rushers. Burrow, who last year put together arguably the greatest season a college quarterback has ever had, is hoping to mimic the success Bosa has had at the NFL level. 

Before we break down Sunday’s matchup, here’s how you can follow the action in real time. 

How to watch 

Date: Sunday, September 13 | Time: 4:05 p.m. ET
Location: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati, Ohio)
TV: 
CBS | Stream: CBS All Access
Follow: CBS Sports App

Preview

While calling them a possible playoff contender is probably a stretch, the Bengals are a considerably better team than the one that won just two games in 2019. Along with Burrow, the team also selected former Clemson receiver Tee Higgins, who will look to complement fellow wideouts Tyler Boyd (90 catches for 1,046 yards last season), A.J. Green, John Ross and Auden Tate. Cincinnati’s rushing attack continues to be led by Joe Mixon, who will run behind what should be an improved offensive line following the offseason acquisitions of former Cowboys guard Xavier Su’a-Filo and the return from injury of 2019 first-round tackle Jonah Williams.

Cincinnati’s defense continues to be led by linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, who have a combined 10 Pro Bowl selections and 157 sacks between them. Atkins and Dunlap will be flanked by a slew of new teammates the season that includes nose tackle D.J. Reader, linebacker Josh Bynes, cornerback Mackensie Alexander, and safety Vonn Bell. The Bengals should have considerably more depth defensively than they have had in recent season, with the addition of rookies Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaiter, Khalid Kareem and Markus Bailey. 

Like the Bengals, the Chargers are ushering in a new era. After parting ways with Philip Rivers, Los Angeles spent the No. 6 overall pick on quarterback Justin Herbert. While Herbert showed flashes of his talent during training camp, he will start the season behind Tyrod Taylor, a veteran who has 70 games and 45 professional starts under his belt. While he will have running back Austin Ekeler (92 receptions last season) and receiver Keenan Allen (104 receptions for 1,199 yards in 2019) on Sunday, Taylor is also hoping to have 1,000-yard receiver Mike Williams, who was limited during Wednesday’s practice after injuring his shoulder on August 23. If Williams can’t go, that should lead to more opportunities for rookie wideouts Joe Reed and K.J. Hill. 

Like the Bengals’ defense, the Chargers’ defense is led by their two stalwarts in Bosa and Ingram, who both received lengthy contract extensions this summer. The duo will be joined this season by first-round pick Kenneth Murray, a 2020 first-round pick who will be part of the Chargers’ starting defense this Sunday. Los Angeles is also expecting big things out of safety Nasir Adderley, a 2019 second-round pick who fought through injuries during his rookie season. The Chargers’ secondary also includes Chris Harris, who earned four Pro Bowl selections during his nine seasons in Denver. 

Prediction

This game will come to how well the Bengals can protect Burrow, whose ability to evade the rush will also be an important factor if his offensive line struggles to contain Bosa and Ingram. While the magic probably won’t last all year, Burrow’s moxie and ability should be enough to keep things close. But in the end, the Chargers’ experience, specifically at the quarterback position, should be enough to give Los Angeles the win 

Score: Chargers 20, Bengals 17 

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