Both seeking their just their third victories of the season after fighting through some very close games and injuries this season, the 2-5 Chicago Bears and 2-6 San Diego Chargers attempt to climb out of the NFL cellar in Week 9’s “Monday Night Football” matchup at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Bears are presently third in the NFC North, but four wins back of first, while the Chargers have trudged through the second-worst current losing streak in the league and sit dead last in the AFC West. But if a few balls bounced differently or injuries hadn’t taken their toll, each side could be hovering at or near .500 and in much better shape to make the postseason.
Marred by significant injuries along the offensive line and in the secondary, the Chargers have lost five games by an average of 7.3 points. During their four-game losing streak they’ve fallen short by a touchdown or less three times, including last week’s 29-26 heartbreaker at Baltimore.
Despite the injuries, and with left tackle King Dunlap (ankle) listed as out and guard Orlando Franklin (knee) doubtful against the Bears, quarterback Philip Rivers has still emerged as the NFL’s top passer with 2,753 yards and 18 touchdowns to seven interceptions while taking 19 sacks.
Dunlap and Franklin have missed a combined seven games this season, and the defense could miss leader and safety Eric Weddle (groin) for the third straight game as he’s listed as questionable. Linebacker Manti Te’o (ankle) has already been ruled out for the fourth consecutive time.
Rivers also lost his top receiving threat Keenan Allen, who suffered a laceration to one of his kidneys after taking a nasty hit and spill in the end zone last week. He’s out for the season after pulling down 67 receptions for 725 yards and four touchdowns.
Rivers may also miss tight end Ladarius Green, who’s tied with Allen for the team lead in touchdowns. But Rivers should have veteran Antonio Gates available.
Chicago’s kept games much closer since receiver Alshon Jeffery’s returned from injury, especially when compared to the first three matchups of the season. The Bears were blown out by an average of 19.6 points, but when Jeffery’s in the lineup against opposing pass defenses they’ve lost by eight points or less and three points the last two weeks.
A hamstring injury limited Jeffery in training camp and the preseason, but he’s since exploded the last two weeks with 18 catches for 263 yards and two scores as Jay Cutler’s favorite target.
Jeffery should receive more attention due to the Chargers' banged up secondary, and with running back Matt Forte and former Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal both out with knee injuries.
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online: Watch ESPN