The NFL playoffs haven't been kind to either the Chargers or Bengals in recent years. Cincinnati has been a "one-and-done" team for the last years. Philip Rivers is desperate for a playoff win where his draft classmates have already succeeded.
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Playoff record: 9-12
Wild card record: 4-2
Last playoff appearance: Jan. 17, 2010 vs. New York Jets (loss)
Last playoff win: Jan. 3, 2009 vs. Indianapolis Colts
Best playoff result: Super Bowl XXIX runner up (1994 season)
Philip Rivers is often critiqued for being the last member of the fabled 2004 draft class to win a Super Bowl, but there's no question he's been excellent in his time for San Diego.
Prior to his arrival the Chargers appeared in 18 playoff games in 35 years -- now about to play in their ninth in less than 10. The supporting cast hasn't always been there for Rivers, and he continues to find a way. This continued in 2013 with a host of injuries at wide receiver being mitigated by solid play and use of rookie Keenan Allen.
The Chargers have played in a playoff road game just three times in the last ten years, netting a 2-1 record. Only one game was settled by more than a score, showing this is a team who knows how to keep games close.
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Playoff record: 5-11
Wild card record: 1-5
Last playoff appearance: Jan. 5, 2013 vs. Houston Texans (loss)
Last playoff win: Jan. 6, 1990 vs. Houston Oilers
Best playoff result: Super Bowl XXIII runner up (1988 season)
It's tempting to look at Andy Dalton's playoff record (0-2) and believe the Bengals early exits are a product of a young quarterback, but it's a systemic problem that runs far deeper. Cincinnati has made the playoffs in 11 seasons, losing their first game an astonishing eight times.
There's no logical reason why this happens, but it's a pattern. That said, it helps that the Bengals are at home. This is a team that has never won a playoff game on the road, but has a 5-3 record at Paul Brown Stadium. If you like to draw conclusions from history, then this game is winnable largely because they are playing at home.
Can the past teach us anything?
Not in this case. This is the hardest game to pick on wild card weekend, largely because both teams have had incredible highs and lows in 2013.
The Chargers lost by a touchdown when these sides last met, but leaned more heavily on Ryan Mathews in their late games to bring more offensive steadiness. It's a contest that will come down to quarterback play, and while the Bengals have the better defense, everything will hinge on Dalton.