Already playing at a high level, Philip Rivers is historically at his best when the calendar turns to December. He boasts a lifetime record of 26-5 as the team’s starting signal caller, which is the most in the NFL since 2006. Rivers ranks third all-time in the month of December with a passer rating of 98.4. Including a stint in the 2005 season finale, he has completed 585 of 940 (62.2%) for 7,240 yards, 56 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions. Rivers comes into Sunday’s game as the NFL’s fifth-highest rated passer with a rating of 106.6, nearly 11 points higher than his career rating of 95.7. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is nearly three-to-one (22-to-8), well above his career TD-to-INT ratio of 211-to-101. Rivers is also completing passes at a league-leading 70.8% clip, more than six percentage points higher than his 64.4 career ledger. With 3,381 yards through the season’s first 11 games, Rivers is on pace to pass for 4,918 yards, which would shatter the franchise record of 4,802 yards set by Dan Fouts in 1981.
On Offense for the Bengals
First and foremost, the Chargers will need to be aware of wherever A.J. Green is on the field. One of the most lethal wide receiver weapons in the NFL, Green is coming off his worst game of the season, a two-catch, seven-yard performance vs. the Cleveland Browns. That ended his franchise record performance of five 100-yard receiving games in a row. After not playing last week due to the bye, Green enters this week in third place in the NFL in receiving yards. With 1,020 yards, he’s only 24 behind AFC leader Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh (1044) and 178 behind Calvin Johnson of Detroit.
On Defense for the Chargers
San Diego features a young defense, which as a whole has been hit particularly hard by the injury bug, Walker: "Every Game is a Must-Win" especially at outside linebacker where the Chargers have been decimated by injuries. Two starters Dwight Freeney and Larry English - have been lost for the season, and Jarret Johnson has missed time recently due to a hamstring strain and a hand injury. Melvin Ingram, last year’s first round pick was expected to start, but he’s spent the first 12 weeks of the season on the “Physically Unable to Perform” list while recovering from an offseason knee injury. He returned to practice last week and the Chargers are hopeful of getting Ingram back on the field before the end of the season. One of the team’s top performers at outside linebacker as of late has been Thomas Keiser, a third-year player who began the season on the Bolts’ practice squad and who before Nov. 10, had never started a game in the NFL.
On Defense for the Bengals
Just like the Chargers, the Bengals have been hit hard on defense by injuries, but they have been thriving despite the losses of Geno Atkins, Leon Hall and Rey Maualuga. Veteran defensive back Adam Jones has stepped in to replace Hall while second-year pro Brandon Thompson has replaced Atkins as Jones is a confident and fearless performer and Thompson is a 325-pound rock who has been a team tackles leader since becoming a starter.
The Chargers hold a 19-13 edge in the all-time series. Cincinnati has won the last two meetings (2010 in Cincinnati and 2012 in San Diego), but prior to that the Chargers won two straight, five of six and eight of 10. The Chargers are 10-6 against the Bengals in San Diego.
By the Numbers
For the year, the Chargers rank sixth in total offense (407.7 yards per game), fourth in passing (296.9 ypg), 17th in rushing (110.8 ypg) and 13th in points (24.5). The Bengals rank 10th in total offense (364.5 ypg), 10th in passing (256.6 ypg), 20th in rushing (107.9 ypg) and 10th in points (25.0)
Defensively, the Bolts rank 29th in total defense (389.5 ypg), 27th in passing (276.0 ypg), 17th in rushing (113.5 ypg) and 15th in points allowed (23.6). Cincinnati ranks seventh in total defense (313.1 ypg), sixth in passing (211.1 ypg), 10th in rushing (102.0 ypg) and sixth in points allowed (18.7).
Milestones on the Horizon
Antonio Gates is third on the team’s all-time receiving yardage list with 9,006 yards. He needs 198 to pass Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner (9,203) for second.
Gates has 21-career 100-yard games, sixth in team history. He needs one more to tie Wes Chandler for fifth and five more to tie Kellen Winslow’s mark (26) for most in team history by a tight end. Gates’ 21-career 100-yard games are fourth-most in the NFL by a tight end since 1960.
Philip Rivers needs just 119 yards and three touchdowns to extend his franchise-record streaks of 3,500-yard passing and 25-touchdown seasons to six. He’s already just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to record at least eight seasons with 20-or-more touchdown passes joining Peyton Manning (13), Brett Favre (12), Dan Marino and Drew Brees (10).
Rivers needs three more touchdown passes to join Peyton Manning (13) and Brees (8) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with more than 25 touchdown passes in at least six consecutive seasons.
Rivers has four games this season with 390-or-more yards. That ties the most in a single-season in NFL history with Dan Marino (1984) and Joe Montana (1990). If Rivers has another 390-yard game, it would set a new NFL record.
Ryan Mathews (3,197 career rushing yards) is currently sixth on the team’s all-time rushing list. He needs 113 rushing yards to move past the late Chuck Muncie (3,309) for fifth.
Past Milestones vs. Bengals
Philip Rivers passed for 308 yards and three touchdowns in a Dec. 20, 2009 win over the Bengals, the same game in which he also led a game-winning field goal drive over the final 51 seconds of the fourth quarter. The victory coupled with a Denver loss helped the Chargers clinch a fourth-straight AFC West title.
On Nov. 12, 2006, Rivers led the Chargers to a 49-41 come-from-behind victory at Paul Brown Stadium in which he helped lead the Chargers back from a 21-point deficit. The Bolts trailed 28-7 in the first half before scoring a team-record 42 points in the second half.
In four career games against the Bengals, Rivers is 101 of 162 passing (62.3%) for 1,182 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
Chargers long snapper Mike Windt is a native of Cincinnati. He prepped at Elder High School, played collegiately at the University of Cincinnati and signed with the Bengals as an undrafted rookie in 2010.
Defensive tackle Kwame Geathers’ brother, Robert, is a defensive end for the Bengals, however he is on injured-reserve with an elbow injury.
Tight end Antonio Gates finished his collegiate career on the hardwood at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.
Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco played football at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio.
Chargers Assistant Offensive Line Coach Andrew Dees played for the Bengals in 1992.
Bengals quarterback Josh Johnson played collegiately at the University of San Diego.
Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is from Vista, Calif. a suburb of San Diego and he prepped at Vista High School.
Strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton was an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Chargers from 1995-98.
Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese attended USD, served as an assistant coach with the school from 1990-91 and is the son of former Chargers offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese.