The Cincinnati Bengals host the San Diego Chargers in one of the more intriguing matchups of Week 13. Both teams are coming off big wins, with the Chargers handing the Chiefs their second straight loss and the Bengals routing the Browns.
Meet the San Diego Chargers
The Chargers will try to avoid a letdown game after an emotional win over the Kansas City Chiefs last week. San Diego improved to 5-6 and remain in the wild card hunt. Philip Rivers was brilliant once again, throwing for over 390 yards for the fourth time this season. He got the Chargers into an unexpected shootout against Alex Smith and the Chiefs defense and came out on top in the 41-38 win. The Chargers get another big test against a team that's close to clinching its division. They need to improve on their 3-5 conference record if they want that final wild card spot.
Meet the Cincinnati Bengals
After two straight losses, the Bengals got back on the wagon with a convincing 41-20 win over the Browns. They are now 7-4 and have a two game lead over the rest of the AFC North. They're still in contention for a first-round bye, but will have to leapfrog the Colts and Patriots first. The big concern is Andy Dalton, who had another poor game last week. Dalton completed just 13 of 27 passes for 93 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Those numbers won't be good enough if the Bengals want to get their first playoff win in the Marvin Lewis era.
Local Takes: San Diego Chargers
John Gennaro of Bolts From The Blue praises coach Mike McCoy for turning Philip Rivers' career around:
Ask anybody that watched the Chargers over the last few years if they thought Rivers, Gates and Mathews could be part of one of the league's best offenses in 2013 and they would probably laugh in your face. Tell them that they'd have to do it without either of their planned starting WRs and they would fall over in hysterics. Tell them the 2013 Chargers would be playing a rookie right tackle as their starting left tackle, and they would be genuinely worried for the safety of the team's starting quarterback.
Mike McCoy's game management needs work, and I can't wait for the day when he loosens up a bit with the local media, but what he and his staff have been able to do on the offensive side of the ball is nothing short of miraculous. Pulling off miracles as a rookie head coach, in any capacity, deserves praise and gives me hope that Mike McCoy will be able to improve himself (and his team) going forward.
Local Takes: Cincinnati Bengals
Josh Kirkendall from Cincy Jungle takes a look at the two team's strengths and reaches this conclusion:
Sunday's game will be a test of tests. San Diego is coming off an emotional victory resulting from a last-second touchdown to secure a win over Kansas City. Cincinnati is exiting their bye week with a rising Pittsburgh Steelers squad that's suddenly on their heals. This will be the battle of the game.
The wild card? Andy Dalton of course, facing a passing defense that's 27th in the NFL with only six interceptions (T-27th in the league) and an opposing quarterback rating of 102.7 (31st in the NFL). It's a perfect storm for Dalton to sing his redemption song.
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Four out of six experts on SB Nation's panel are predicting the Bengals to win.
Vegas has even odds on the game, according to OddsShark.
San Diego vs. New York Giants
Cincinnati vs. Indianapolis