BENGALS (5-7) at CHARGERS (9-3)
When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m. PT
Where: StubHub Center
Line: Chargers by 14
TV/Radio: KCBS/2; 640-AM, 980-AM (Spanish)
CHARGERS OFFENSE VS. BENGALS DEFENSE
The Chargers offense struggled to get going against the Steelers, scoring only seven points and rushing for two yards in the first half. Behind Justin Jackson’s second-half spark, Los Angeles broke loose for 26 points, including 23 unanswered. Jackson didn’t get his first carry until the third quarter last week, but don’t expect that to happen again against the Bengals. The coaching staff will probably get Jackson involved early, and could lean on him and Austin Ekeler heavily in the second half if the Chargers jump out to a big lead. This could turn into a big outing for many Chargers on the stat sheet. The Bengals allow a league-worst 30.9 points and 433.1 yards per game. EDGE: Chargers
BENGALS OFFENSE VS. CHARGERS DEFENSE
It could be a long day for a Bengals offense that will be without starting quarterback Andy Dalton and star wide receiver A.J. Green. If that wasn’t bad enough, running back Joe Mixon appeared on the injury report this week with a foot injury. Quarterback Jeff Driskel will start for the second consecutive game with Tyler Boyd as his top target. Driskel and Boyd connected six times for 97 yards in a loss to the Broncos in Week 13. Long Beach native John Ross only has 16 receptions in his second season, but could see an increase in targets with Green out. The Chargers only recorded one sack against the Steelers and allowed Ben Roethlisberger plenty of time to operate. The Chargers could have trouble getting to a mobile Driskel. EDGE: Chargers
Desmond King limped off the field in the third quarter against the Steelers and was unable to receive the punt. The next time the Steelers punted, King was on the field. He returned it 73 yards for a touchdown and it led to a Chargers’ 2-point conversion to tie the game 30-30 in the fourth quarter. King’s heroics earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. The Chargers also received special teams contributions from rookie Michael Badgley, who kicked the game-winning field goal with time expired. He’s made 10 of 11 field goal attempts this season. Bengals kicker Randy Bullock has made 10 of 14 field goal attempts. EDGE: Chargers
The Bengals are in familiar territory with not knowing if head coach Marvin Lewis will return next season. Last December, reports surfaced that Lewis would be let go at the end of the 2017 season, but late wins against the Lions and Ravens may have saved his job. He might not be so lucky this time around, as the Bengals have lost four in a row. They’ve also lost four of their past six games by double digits. While Lewis is on the hot seat, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn is sitting comfortably in his second second as he inches closer to a postseason berth. Lynn’s coaching staff has the Chargers excelling in all three phases of the game. EDGE: Chargers
The Bengals have won the past four regular season meetings against the Chargers. But that doesn’t mean anything with the Bengals ravaged by injuries. Even if the Chargers are looking ahead to their Thursday showdown versus the Chiefs, it shouldn’t hurt them too much. The Chargers fell behind 10-0 against the Cardinals at home last month and ended up winning 45-10. The Chargers can afford a slow start against a team with not much to play for. It can’t be easy for the Bengals to fly across the country without two of their best players and with a lame duck coach. EDGE: Chargers
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Chargers offensive line vs. Bengals defensive line
The Chargers’ deepest position could be the offensive line, which has only allowed 22 sacks this season. The unit will face the Bengals’ duo of defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. They’ve combined for 14 sacks this season with seven apiece. Atkins, a defensive tackle, is a six-time Pro Bowler and has made first-team All-Pro twice in his career. Dunlap is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and has made the Pro Bowl twice.
Chargers 38, Bengals 13
The Chargers should have no trouble at home against a two-touchdown underdog. Lynn is well aware that the Bengals were 5-3 and in the playoff hunt a month ago, but he shouldn’t worry too much. This is a depleted Bengals team in the midst of a free fall with no end in sight. Expect the Chargers to be up comfortably after three quarters as they gear up for an AFC West battle against the Chiefs on Thursday night.
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