The Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) travel to San Diego to take on the Chargers (4-7) in what is a must-win game.
It's been a story of ups and downs for the Bengals to this point. They have gone on two three-game winning streaks and also lost four consecutive games in between those stretches.
San Diego, on the other hand, hasn't done very much consistently this season. Still, there hasn't been one game that the Chargers haven't been competitive in. Well, except for the team's Week 3 shellacking by the Atlanta Falcons.
This week is a pivotal one for both teams. Cincinnati is seeking its second playoff appearance in three seasons while San Diego is playing for its coaches job. There's sure to be some excitement in this one as big-play wide receivers A.J. Green and Danario Alexander will be on display.
Who's going to walk away with the win, who's injured and at risk to play and what's being said around the league? Check out the following and find those answers and more.
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
When: Sunday, Dec. 2 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Direct Ticket
Betting Line: Cincinnati (-2), according to Bovada
Cincinnati Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/27/2012)
C Jeff Faine, Hamstring, Probable
WR Andrew Hawkins, Knee, Doubtful
CB Adam Jones, Calf, Probable
WR Marvin Jones, Knee, Probable
S Reggie Nelson, Hamstring, Probable
CB Terence Newman, Head, Probable
TE Richard Quinn, Hamstring, Doubtful
San Diego Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/27/2012)
DB Eric Weddle, Concussion, Questionable
LB Donald Butler, Groin, Unknown
LB Larry English, Calf, Out
DT Aubrayo Franklin, Knee, Questionable
G Tyronne Green, Hamstring, Doubtful
TE Dante Rosario, Hamstring, Doubtful
WR Eddie Royal, Hamstring, Out
P Mike Scifres, Right ankle, Probable
G Louis Vasquez, Ankle, Probable
S Atari Bigby, Groin, Out for season
What's At Stake?
The Bengals are currently tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers with 6-5 records. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may miss this week against Baltimore, again. Cincinnati needs to win this winnable game in order to get the upper hand on Pittsburgh in the wild-card race.
San Diego is moving in the opposite direction but is still not mathematically out of the conversation. It will take winning out and some things to fall in their favor but it's not out of the realm of possibility, though it's unlikely.
Cincinnati WR A.J. Green
Despite not scoring a touchdown for the first time since Week 1, Green still managed to put up over 100 yards against the Oakland Raiders last week. Luckily for Green, the San Diego Chargers aren't exactly shutting down opposing wide receivers. That should benefit the top-ranked fantasy wide receiver this week.
If the Bengals are going to come away with the win, they'll need to use Green to do it. He's been the most consistent as well as explosive fantasy option out there this season. Feel safe and employ him as normal this weekend against the Chargers.
San Diego RB Ryan Mathews
Mathews and the Chargers running game hasn't lived up to expectations. They've been forced to throw the ball this season and Mathews hasn't made the most of the opportunities he's been given. That should change this week as the Chargers may be forced to focus their game plan toward the ground game.
Cincinnati is doing a good job containing the pass but have been average at defending fantasy runners. The Bengals are allowing 16 fantasy points per game to opposing rushers and Mathews has only met that mark one time this season when he scored 19 points against New Orleans in Week 5. This could be the week he gets over that hump due to game situations and the possibility of finally breaking one.
What They Are Saying
ESPN Stats & Info. pointed out (via Twitter) that the San Diego Chargers have struggled mightily on offense this season. They have averaged 34 points per game against the Kansas City Chiefs (two wins) and 19.7 points per game in nine other matchups (two wins).
Kevin Acee of NCTimes.com looked into why the Chargers just can't seem to finish games. He got a pretty dramatic response from linebacker and former Baltimore Ravens defender Jarret Johnson:
It's just really frustrating because we've shown we can play. I’ve been on bad teams, riddled with injuries, bad guys, dysfunctional. This team is every bit the opposite of that ... We've shown we're a talented team, offensively and defensively. And at the same time, we've turned around and proven time and again that we just don't know how to win.
The Chargers announced (via Twitter) on Tuesday how many tickets needed to be sold to avoid another blackout in Southern California this weekend:
We have approximately 12k tickets remaining to lift the local TV blackout for Sunday's game. #CINvsSD— San Diego Chargers (@chargers) November 27, 2012
Key Matchup: Philip Rivers vs. Bengals' pass rush
The Bengals pass rush has shined, recording the second-most sacks in the NFL through 12 games. Geno Atkins has headlined the group with a team-leading nine sacks on the year.
On the other side of the ball, the Chargers have given up the second-most sacks in the league. Rivers has gone down 32 times. That's five less times than league leader Aaron Rodgers.
Effective pass rushes tend to fluster Rivers and bring out the worst in him. The Bengals should be able to get after Rivers and wreak havoc in the Chargers' backfield.
That will likely be the case and is the most important matchup in this one.
San Diego will continue to lose until it can close out teams. The Bengals, on the other hand, have been on the rise in recent weeks, scoring wins over the New York Giants and two other AFC West opponents. With the massive implications of this game it's hard to imagine Cincinnati not bringing its best effort to SoCal.
The Bengals will stifle Philip Rivers by getting pressure and forcing errant throws all afternoon. While Ryan Mathews poses some threat and may have a productive game, it won't be enough to keep pace with Cincinnati.
Bengals 24, Chargers 21