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When and where: December 2, 2018, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA, 8:20 PM ET
AFC playoff positioning could be on the line on Sunday when the Los Angeles Chargers go on the road to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos are two things the teams have in common. The Steelers lost to the Broncos on the road last week, while the Chargers are coming off a blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Ekeler’s time to shine
Don’t expect to hear any sky is falling talk coming from the Los Angeles Chargers this week. A few days after losing Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon to a knee injury, the Bolts are preparing to roll out backup running back Austin Ekeler as a starter during the final stretch of the season.
Gordon is expected to return at some point in the year, but until he’s healthy and in uniform, it will be up to Ekeler to carry the load as the Chargers’ new bell-cow running back.
“I mean, technically, pound-for-pound, he’s the strongest guy on our team,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said, per the team’s official website. “That’s why you see him running through tackles. That’s why you see him creating yards after contact. He can do those types of things. He’s not a big back, but he can still do those types of things.”
Ekeler will be tested right out the gates by the Steelers’ top-10 rushing defense. However, his versatility gives him a chance to be utilized as a traditional runner or a pass-catching back. Lynn and the rest of the coaching staff may still have to get creative to make up for the impact of the loss of Gordon.
Ekeler contributed five carries for 35 yards and one touchdown, along with a team-high 10 receptions for 68 yards, to the Chargers’ 45-10 win over the Cardinals. Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa also had two sacks.
If the Chargers rely on the pass, they have a good one in Philip Rivers. Last week, he threw 25 consecutive completions against the Cardinals. On the season, he has 3,119 passing yards with 26 TDs and just six INTs.
Los Angeles ranks fifth in the NFL in yards per game (402ypg) and ninth in passing yards (273.2ypg). They are outstanding against the pass (227.3ypg) and decent against the run (107.5ypg).
Roethlisberger throws the game away
The Steelers have never missed running back Le’Veon Bell more than they missed him last Sunday against the Broncos. Running back James Conner was held relatively in check on the ground, and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was forced to drop back 56 times to try to win the game with his arm.
He finished the game with 462 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The last interception came on a potential game-tying drive in the red zone. Roethlisberger could only shake his head at being the culprit of such a critical mental mistake down the stretch.
Not only did the Steelers lose the game, but they also hurt their chances of winning home-field advantage in the playoffs, meaning the trip to the Super Bowl could go through Gillette or Arrowhead Stadium.
Conner ended the game with 13 carries for 53 yards, along with four catches for 42 yards. He now has 849 yards on the season but has just 143 over the past three games after rusning for four straight 100-yard games.
Roethlisberger has 3,664 yards passing with 24 TDs but also has 12 picks. The Steelers rank fourth in the NFL in total offense (420.8ypg) and second in passing yards per game (325.ypg). They rank seventh in total defense (325.1ypg) and sixth against the pass (223.3ypg).
- Steelers are 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 games against teams in the AFC
- Steelers are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games after a straight up loss
- Steelers are 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 games after accumulating more than 250 passing yards in the previous game
- Steelers are 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 games played on grass
- Chargers are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games played in Week 13
- Chargers are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games after allowing less than 250 total yards in the previous game
- Chargers are 8-20-1 ATS in their last 29 games after scoring more than 30 points in the previous game
- Chargers are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games after an ATS wi