The Los Angeles Chargers will try to take another step toward their first playoff berth since 2013 when they play host to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at StubHub Center in a matchup of teams going in opposite directions.
The 9-3 Chargers have won eight of their last nine games. The 5-7 Bengals have lost four consecutive games.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will be starting his 205th consecutive game dating back to 2006. Cincinnati quarterback Jeff Driskel will be starting the second game of his three-season NFL career. He made the first in last Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, completing 25 of 38 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
Driskel was starting because Andy Dalton, the Bengals starting quarterback since he was a rookie in 2011, was placed on the reserve/injured list because of a thumb injury sustained Nov. 25 in a 35-20 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Dalton is among four Cincinnati players on the reserve/injured list who were starters at the beginning of the season. The others are tight ends Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft and linebacker Preston Brown.
Three other Bengal starters will also be sidelined Sunday — linebacker Vontaze Burfict, offensive tackle Cordy Glenn and cornerback Dre Kirkpatick.
The Chargers will also be without a key player, running back Melvin Gordon, who will miss his second consecutive game because of a knee injury suffered Nov. 25 in a 45-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, coach Anthony Lynn said.
Reserve cornerback Trevor Williams will also miss the game because of a knee injury, Lynn said.
Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is doubtful, meaning it is unlikely he will play.
“(Chargers owner) Dean (Spanos) put him on a plane and sent him back to Nebraska to be with his family,” Lynn said on Friday. “I don’t want to get into what’s going on with his baby, but if you pray, keep Mebane and his family in your prayers.”
Mebane’s daughter Makenna was born Nov. 12, a month premature, diagnosed with trisomy 13, a heart defect, and has had other health issues.
Heading into this week’s action, the Chargers had the opportunity to be assured of a playoff berth with a victory and losses or ties by four other teams. However, the Tennessee Titans 30-9 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday meant the Chargers will have to wait at least one week to be assured of a playoff berth.
The Chargers are seeking to be 10-3 for the sixth time in their 59- year history and first since 2009.
Cincinnati will be playing in the Los Angeles area for the first time since Jan. 13, 1991, when they lost a divisional playoff game to the Los Angeles Raiders at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Bengals 53-player active roster includes two players who played high school football in Los Angeles or Orange counties — receiver John Ross (Long Beach Jordan) and guard Alex Redmond (Los Alamitos).
The Chargers have made one addition to their 53-player active roster since last Sunday’s 33-30 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, promoting rookie receiver Dylan Cantrell from the practice squad to replace eight-year veteran offensive tackle Joe Barksdale, who was cut.
“He’s waited and has worked hard all year,” Lynn said of Cantrell, who was chosen in the sixth round of the 2018 draft out of Texas Tech. “He’s earned a spot to step up. If something happens (to another receiver), then we can move him right in (as opposed) to waiting (to then take) him off of the practice squad.”
The Chargers have designated this game as their “My Cause, My Cleats” game where players wear customized cleats reflecting their commitment to charitable causes. Each NFL team designates a home game during Week 13-15 as their “My Cause, My Cleats” game.
Seven players chose awareness of various forms of cancer as their causes.
Safety Jahleel Addae and receiver Travis Benjamin both chose breast cancer awareness; Cantrell and defensive end Christopher Landrum both selected pancreatic cancer awareness; offensive lineman Cole Toner and long snapper Mike Windt both picked pediatric cancer awareness; guard Michael Schofield III chose colon cancer awareness.
Other causes selected by Chargers players include multiple sclerosis awareness (tight end Sean Culkin and guard Dan Feeney); diabetes awareness (linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and safety Adrian Phillips); and lupus awareness (tight end Antonio Gates).
Players will have the opportunity to raise funds for the causes of their choosing by auctioning their cleats at NFL Auction. All the funds raised will be donated to charities selected by players.
Pregame activities will begin with an enlistment ceremony for future U.S. Marines from the Los Angeles area. The future Marines will each hold flags as actress, singer and dancer Courtney Lopez sings the national anthem.
“Extra” host Mario Lopez will fire the Chargers canon.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Essence Zanders and retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Moore will be honored as the Military Heroes of the Week during the first quarter.
Zanders joined the Army in 2008 as a human resource specialist. She was deployed to Iraq in 2010, selected in 2015 to become a detailed recruiter and in 2016 as member of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s Female Engagement Team.
Moore enlisted in the Army in 1999 and was deployed to Afghanistan seven times and six times to Iraq during his 14-year career. He was shot in the right leg, right arm and helmet while leading a raid in Afghanistan in 2011. Moore was awarded the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars and the Army Commendation Medal.
At halftime, the Chargers will present a $25,000 check to the Los Angeles Fire Department raised from the 50/50 raffles at the Nov. 18 and 25 games. The department will send a portion of the funds raised to the Ventura County Fire Department Widows, Orphans and Assistance Fund.
More than 100 girls ages 7-to-15 will dance alongside the Chargers Girls and Crenshaw High School Marching Band at halftime as part of the Junior Charger Girls program.