AFC NORTH PREVIEW: Bengals in position to win division
So, after their riveting victory at Kansas City, do the San Diego Chargers have what it takes to reach the playoffs for the first time in four seasons?
“We’re going to find out,” said Philip Rivers, whose 26-yard touchdown pass to Seyi Ajiritutu with 24 secods left last Sunday gave the Chargers a 41-38 win that may have saved the season.
Still, the Bolts are 5-6 and it’ll be a scramble for them to claim the AFC’s second wild-card spot. They play four of their final five games at home, starting today against Andy Dalton and the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (7-4).
The fans haven’t quite caught playoff fever. The game fell 5,300 tickets short of a sellout at Thursday’s deadline, making it the first NFL game blacked out this season.
The thrilling win at Kansas City followed head-scratching losses at Washington and Miami under rookie coach Mike McCoy.
“We lost some tough ones, but we survived,” Rivers said. “However it is, we survived enough to be still hanging onto the rope. However tight a grip we have, I don’t know yet. But we’re alive and we get to play the last four of five at home.”
The closing stretch is big for the Bengals, too.
They came out of their bye week with a two-game lead in the AFC North with only five to go, three at home. Only one team left on the schedule currently has a winning record: Indianapolis, which has to play at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals’ first AFC North title since 2009 is right there for them, if they don’t blow it.
“So for us, we’re in control of everything right now,” Dalton said.
“So this is a big five games for us. It’s a big point in the season because this is when you want to be playing your best. I think that’s kind of what I’ve taken from the first two seasons being here. At this point in the season, it’s make-or-break time for a lot of teams and what’s going to happen going into the playoffs and stuff like that. Our goal is to be playing well. Our goal is to win all five of these.”
Jacksonville (2-9) at Cleveland (4-7): Remember that almost-guaranteed top overall draft pick for Jacksonville next May? It is disappearing quickly as the Jags won two of their last three.
Just when the Browns seemed to have a shot at a run to the postseason, they’ve dropped two straight within the AFC North.
They’re back to Brandon Weeden at quarterback with Jason Campbell having a concussion. His best target, Josh Gordon, set a team record with 237 yards receiving last week and tied a team mark with 14 catches.