Where: Qualcomm Field, San Diego (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS, blacked out locally)
Spread: Chargers by 2
Records: Bengals (6-5, AFC North 1-3); Chargers (4-7, AFC West 3-2)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Dec. 26, 2010: Bengals 34, Chargers 20; Dec. 20, 2009: Chargers 27, Bengals 24. Series record: The Chargers lead the all-time series 19-12.
What matters: These teams are headed in opposite directions. Cincinnati has won three in a row by 18 points or more, and San Diego has lost six of its last seven. Both teams, however, are on the outside of the playoff picture and are in need of a win to keep their postseason hopes alive.
QB Philip Rivers looks to turn the season around starting this week. “As bad as it's been, and it's still a long-shot, but we're still breathing,” Rivers said. “We just have to go and win a game. I've been getting texts saying ‘You still have a chance.' And all of that's true. But we still have to win a game first. Beating Cincinnati, a team that is ahead of us by a couple of games, we know what comes after that. You'll be alive.”
Who matters: The Chargers' defense is ranked 19th against the pass (243.3 yards per game). In the last three games, Bengals QB Andy Dalton has completed 55 of 89 passes (61.8 percent) for 639 yards with nine TDs and no INTs. Dalton's passer rating in that stretch is 117.2, second best in the league behind Tom Brady (118.9). Dalton has thrown 23 TDs through the first 11 games and is on pace to throw 33, which would set a new Bengals season record for TDs. The franchise record is 32 set by current Raiders QB Carson Palmer.
Key matchups: The Chargers secondary vs. WR A.J. Green: Green already has 67 receptions for 1,022 yards. He is tied for the league lead with 10 TD receptions. San Diego will be without starting SS Atari Bigby (groin), who was placed on reserved-injured on Tuesday. Rookie SS Brandon Taylor (round three, 73rd overall) will make his NFL debut while sharing reps with backup S Corey Lynch. Chargers O-line vs. Bengals D-line: The Chargers O-line has struggled throughout the season but welcomes back starting LG Tyronne Green (hamstring), who missed last week. The Bengals have recorded 35 sacks, second-most in the league. DT Geno Atkins has a team-leading nine, DE Michael Johnson has eight. Chargers D-line vs. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis: The Chargers defense is ranked fifth against the run (91.5 yards per game). Green-Ellis has averaged 3.8 yards per carry with 767 rushing yards and five TDs this season. Bengals D-line vs. RB Ryan Mathews: Mathews has yet to rush for over 100 yards this year, but he had one of his best performances of the season last week with 72 rushing yards on 19 attempts (3.8 yards per carry). The Bengals defense is ranked 16th against the run (116.1 yards per game). A 100-yard plus performance from Mathews would help keep the ball out of the hands of Dalton and keep the Chargers in striking distance.
Injuries of note: San Diego -- Out: ILB Donald Butler (groin), WR Eddie Royal (hamstring) and S Darrell Stuckey (hamstring). Doubtful: TE Dante Rosario (hamstring). Questionable: OLB Jarret Johnson (back). Cincinnati -- Out: WR Mohamed Sanu (broken foot).
Inside stuff: The Chargers have tried to simulate WR A.J. Green in practice. “We have had a couple guys by committee try to simulate some of [his] routes,” DC John Pagano said.
Connections: ILB Takeo Spikes was a first-round pick by Cincinnati in 1998 and played for the Bengals from 1998-02. Chargers S Corey Lynch was a sixth-round pick of the Bengals in 2008 and played for them that season. Secondary coach Ron Meeks was the defensive backs coach for Cincinnati from 1992-96.
Stat you should know: Rivers has posted a passer rating of 100.0 or higher in five games this season and the Chargers have gone 4-1. For his career, the Chargers are 41-9 in games when Rivers has a rating of 100.0 or better.
Record watch: TE Antonio Gates (80) needs one touchdown catch to match WR Lance Alworth (81) for the franchise record. OLB Shaun Phillips has 68.0 career sacks, tied for second in team history with Gary “Big Hands” Johnson. With his next sack, Phillips will break the tie. Phillips leads the team this season with seven sacks, 13 pressures and nine QB hits.
Looking ahead: In Week 14, the Chargers will stay in the AFC North to take on the Steelers in Pittsburgh. San Diego has never won a regular season game in the steel city.
Prediction: Bengals 27, Chargers 26