By Dave Thomas
Fresh-off their thrilling 41-38 victory last Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers look to take down the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals this weekend in another playoff like atmosphere.
After dropping three straight games, the Bolts may have saved their season with win in Kansas City, yet there is much work to be done in order to hopefully end a three-year dry spell from the playoffs. On Sunday, San Diego gets its next tough test, Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Coming into this weekend’s game, the Chargers sit at 5-6, bunched up with a number of other AFC teams all battling for precious spots in the playoffs. Although Tennessee (5-6) would hold the tiebreaker among the teams (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Jets, Miami, Chargers) if the playoffs began today, there is still a month left to settle things on the field.
Bengals Trying to Hold Off Steelers and Ravens
Meantime, Cincinnati (7-4) is not thinking wild card but AFC North title in its quest to punch a ticket into the post-season.
After getting knocked out in the first round last year to Houston as the sixth seed, the Bengals and especially Dalton have another year of experience under their belts. Coming off of its bye week, Cincinnati may be two game in front of San Diego, but that has not endeared it to the odds makers. As of midweek, the Chargers were a point favorite in this weekend’s meeting.
Set up to play four of its remaining five games at home, San Diego essentially must run the table and hope some other folks get knocked off along the way.
Although each of the remaining wild card contenders have some tough games ahead of them, San Diego got the vote this past Sunday evening from former Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy. When asked at halftime of the Denver-New England game who he thought would make it into the playoffs among all the 5-6 teams, Dungy picked the Chargers, noting their heavy December home schedule.
If the Chargers are to make it to the post-season for the first time in four years, it will mean knocking off a Bengals team that has wins this year over AFC East division leading New England (8-3) and NFC North division leading Detroit (tied with Chicago at 6-5).
Going into Sunday’s contest, the Chargers as most teams are this year must deal with some injury issues.
The biggest key to victory will be giving quarterback Philip Rivers protection in the pocket, something that has not always been the case this season. Rivers, who was sacked a staggering 49 times a season ago, has been taken down 20 times to date this season.
As of Wednesday’s injury report, the Chargers were looking at the following:
- Wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu – (Hamstring) full practice
- Tackle King Dunlap – (Neck) did not practice
- Tackle D.J. Fluker – (Knee) full practice
- Tight End Antonio Gates – (Hamstring) did not practice
- Defensive End Lawrence Guy – (Toe) full practice
- Center Nick Hardwick – (Neck) did not practice
- Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson – (Hand) limited practice
- Defensive end Corey Liuget – (Shin) full practice
- Running back Ryan Mathews – (Hamstring) did not practice
- Wide receiver/kick returner Eddie Royal – (Toe, Chest) did not practice
- Safety Darrell Stuckey – (Concussion) did not practice
- Long snapper Mike Windt – (Ankle) full practice
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.