Bengals at Chargers -- Week 13

Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego (grass, outdoors)

When: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET (CBS)

Spread: Bengals by 1.5

Forecast: Temperatures expected in 60s, 30 percent chance of rain

Records: Bengals (Overall: 6-5, AFC North: 1-3); Chargers (Overall: 4-7, AFC West 3-2)

Past results: Two most recent regular-season meetings -- Dec. 20, 2009: Chargers 27, Bengals 24; Dec. 26, 2010: Bengals 34, Chargers 20. Series record: Chargers lead 19-12.

What matters: The Bengals playoff push detours to the West Coast. Cincinnati won three in a row and enjoys a favorable schedule the next there weeks. Due to the four-game losing streak earlier this year, the margin for error is thin to earn the final AFC playoff spot in the race against Pittsburgh. The Steelers will be without Ben Roethlisberger when they take on the Ravens on Sunday, which favors Baltimore. The Bengals can't miss an opportunity against the struggling Chargers.

Who matters: The Bengals defensive line. The Cincinnati front fueled the team's defensive resurgence of late. They've allowed but two touchdowns in three weeks. The defensive line has 30 of the team's 35 sacks and terrorized quarterbacks during the three-game win streak. The Bengals notched four sacks in each of the last three games. Meanwhile, a battered Chargers offensive line allowed 10 sacks in the last two games combined and hasn't shown the ability to block anybody. It's been a major part of the reason QB Philip Rivers is tied for the most interceptions in the NFL with 14.

If both trends continue, Rivers may want to schedule his Monday massage right now.

"He’s taking a lot of hits," Bengals S Chris Crocker said. "A lot of times he hasn’t had a lot of time. He’s making errant throws because he’s got people in his face."

Key matchups: QB Andy Dalton vs. S Eric Weddle. Marvin Lewis compared Weddle to instinctive AFC North safeties Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu this week and Dalton needs to avoid adding to the comparison. The key in the quarterback's revival over the last three weeks has been the lack of turnovers. Dalton threw an interception in each of the first eight games this year. In the three since, he's thrown nine touchdowns without an interception.
Weddle has picked off three passes and made a habit of stealing momentum in the secondary.
“Weddle has really played well," Lewis said. "He fits well into their scheme. He’s a really heady and smart player. He’s one of those kinds of guys who you can tell has a great understanding of the offense, then gets himself in the right spots.”

Injuries of note:
WR Mohamed Sanu fractured his left foot during practice Thursday and will likely be placed on IR next week. The injury comes at an inopportune time as Sanu broke through as the primary option at the second WR position, which took pressure off A.J. Green in the red zone. Sanu caught four touchdowns passes in the last three games.

Inside stuff: Without Sanu, this could mean the emergence of rookie fifth-round pick Marvin Jones. The starting No. 2 WR job was set to be his before he injured his knee on the Bengals' opening kickoff against Pittsburgh a month ago. In his place, Sanu emerged as a star. Now healthy, Jones will get another shot.

Jones doesn't own Sanu's red-zone ability or versatility but may be the top deep threat on the roster not named Green.

Connections: Chargers LB Takeo Spikes spent the first five years of his 15-year career with Cincinnati. Marvin Lewis' first move as Bengals head coach in 2003 was an attempt to convince Spikes to stay with the team coming off a 2-14 year. He was unsuccessful.

"He's the one that got away," Lewis said.

Stat you should know: Unlike most Americans, the Bengals would prefer to stay away from California. As a franchise they are 9-30 all time in the state. Under Marvin Lewis they are 1-4.

"We also won on the West Coast in 2003, and then lost a bunch of close games on the West Coast," Lewis said. "I don’t think it matters whether we play them here or play them in sunny San Diego. Our job is to go beat their tails this week.”

Record watch: The Bengals won each of the last three games by 18 points. That hadn't happened since 1976. Should the Bengals make it four in a row, it would be the first time in franchise history.

Looking ahead: The Bengals string of winnable games continues with a home game against 5-6 Dallas and then quick Thursday turnaround at battered Philadelphia (3-8).

Prediction: Bengals 17, Chargers 13

Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter @CBSBengals.