In a crucial matchup for the AFC Wild Card hunt, the Cincinnati Bengals face the San Diego Chargers Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.
The 6-5 Bengals have gathered their wins over two three-game win streaks this season and are currently one game behind rival Pittsburgh for the AFC’s last playoff spot.
Sitting at 4-7 and four games behind Denver in the AFC West, San Diego will have to win out in order to make the playoffs. Despite losing six of their last seven games, the Chargers are just two games behind Cincinnati, upping the stakes for both teams in Sunday’s matchup.
Much of the Bengals success has been attributed to the steady progression of second-year quarterback Andy Dalton and dynamic receiver A.J. Green, but the Cincinnati defense deserves some credit after holding opponents to an average of 9.6 points in their current three-game winning streak.
Led by defensive tackle Geno Atkins and defensive end Michael Johnson the Bengals held the Oakland Raiders to 218 total yards, and sacked quarterback Carson Palmer four times in a 34-10 rout last week.
Both recording a sack against Oakland, Atkins leads the team with nine sacks and three forced fumbles, and Johnson has eight sacks for a loss of 42 yards on the year.
Dalton threw three touchdowns, and Green had three catches for 111 yards against Oakland, while running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 129 yards for the second straight game.
Receiver Mohamed Sanu caught two of Dalton's touchdowns and gained 29 yards, but it was revealed this week he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot that will require surgery.
It was the first time Green-Ellis had back-to-back 100 yard games in his five-year career.
San Diego has had a far more disappointing season, squandering a 10-point lead with less than five minutes left and losing 16-13 in overtime to the Baltimore Ravens last week.
The Chargers held Baltimore to just three points until late in the fourth quarter when they let up a four-yard touchdown to tight end Dennis Pitta. Running back Ray Rice would then convert a fourth and 29 on a dump pass to keep the game-tying drive alive.
Quarterback Phillip Rivers went 23-for-36 for 228 yards and a touchdown, but was chased most of the day and was sacked six times and hit another six.
The loss wasn’t without opportunities. San Diego had two possessions in overtime, but was forced to punt both, and eventually gave up a 12-play 69 yard drive that led to the Ravens game-winning field goal.
The game begins at 4:25 p.m. EDT and will be shown by CBS, or watch a live stream online by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: Cincinnati is favored by 1 point.
Over/Under: 46.5 points
Prediction: This is a must win game for both teams, but more so for the Chargers. Look for Rivers to put up big numbers, and the San Diego defense to create enough turnovers for the victory.
Predicted Score: San Diego 27, Cincinnati 24