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When defensive tackle Geno Atkins went down with a torn ACL in Week 9, the worry was that he would take the Bengals pass rush with him. Fortunately that has not been the case, as the team has amassed 43 sacks on the season. While down from the 51 sacks in 2012, the number proves the Bengals defensive front seven is more than just one man alone.
Their current sack leaders are defensive ends Wallace Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap, who each have 7.5. Also, 14 members of the defense have at least a half-sack this season. However, the Chargers offensive line has done a good job of protecting quarterback Philip Rivers, giving up 30 sacks on the year, which is down from a brutal 49 last season.
The Bengals may not be able to rattle him much on Sunday.
Cincinnati sacked Rivers twice in Week 13, hit him three more times and pressured him 15 times. That's a pretty good performance by both the Bengals defensive line, which managed to get sacks, as well as San Diego's offensive line, which gave up only two when a year ago it could have easily been four or five.
San Diego's line is also strong when it comes to run blocking, ranking third per Football Outsiders. It has allowed the Chargers to run the ball the sixth most in the league on average per game, which helps further protect Rivers. They average 122.8 rushing yards per game, four yards per carry and 6.5 rushing first downs per game.
Teams don't run the ball much against the Bengals—just 24.1 times per game on average—much like the Chargers. However, unlike San Diego, Cincinnati doesn't give up exorbitant rushing yards on those attempts. The defense ranks fifth in rushing yards allowed per game at 96.5 and allows an average of four yards per rush.
When they met earlier in the season, the Chargers rushed 24 times for 91 yards, giving them a 3.8 yards-per-carry average—basically, they ran to the Bengals defense's averages. That's a success and something they can repeat this week.
Although San Diego has a much-improved offensive line, the Bengals defensive line is neither very giving nor prone to making massive mistakes, especially at home. The Chargers get a lot of credit for how well they've kept Rivers upright and helped get the run game working, but in this matchup, the Bengals get the edge.