This Sunday night will feature a battle from the famed quarterback class of the 2004 NFL Draft. The fourth pick in 2004, Philip Rivers, and the Los Angeles Chargers travel to face the eleventh pick in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams have had solid seasons and are virtually identical in may areas. This week they will meet with question marks in the running games. Statistically, both defenses are very similar as well. This game will come down to the play of the quarterbacks. That means Big Ben and Rivers could very well find themselves in a old fashioned shootout.
Expect a shootout between Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers
Don’t Bank on the Running Game
Coming into this game, both the Steelers and the Chargers have questions in the running game. The Chargers will be without their star running back Melvin Gordon after he suffered a sprained MCL last week against the Arizona Cardinals. That leaves Austin Ekeler to take over lead back duties against Pittsburgh. Ekeler has filled in nicely earlier in the year for Gordon, but the production isn’t nearly the same. Gordon is the sixth leading rusher this year, and fourth in rushing touchdowns. Pittsburgh enters the game with the ninth ranked rushing defense in the league. Not having to game plan for Gordon will be a plus for the Steelers defense.
On the flip side, James Conner will play against Los Angeles. The Chargers bring the 13th best rushing defense in the league into Sunday night’s game. Conner will come into the game as the fourth-leading rusher in the league with the third most rushing touchdowns. However, Conner hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games or scored a touchdown in back to back games. It’s similar to a three-game stretch he had earlier this season in September. If Conner can’t recapture his mid-season form, the Chargers are more than capable of keeping him bottled up.
Each Team’s Secondary can be Exposed
Entering Week 13, both the Steelers and Chargers have statistically solid secondaries. Both teams have top ten passing defenses that yield less than 230 yards per game. While that might not make you believe this could be a shootout, there are some things to consider. Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for at least 250 yards in every game this season. Even against top-five passing defenses like the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars, he has found a way to throw all over those defenses. Philip Rivers, on the other hand, has completed a high number of passes and minimized turnovers. He has kept mistakes to a minimum and continually found a way to get the ball into the hands of his receivers.
The Steelers secondary has shown a bad habit of giving up big plays to receivers. While they have certainly shored that up as the season has worn on, it was still on display against the Denver Broncos last week. Rivers can throw with anyone, which could lead to Keenan Allen to having a big day. Also, the Steelers don’t force many interceptions, which plays right into Rivers’ strengths. The Chargers also yield big games to good quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff had their way with the Chargers secondary, combining for over 600 yards and seven touchdowns. Even C.J. Beathard threw for nearly 300 yards. Big Ben is certainly capable of doing the same.
Sunday night’s game is going come down to the play of the quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers are similar in many ways. Both are tall, big body quarterbacks with strong arms and total command of their offenses. Part of the famed 2004 quarterback draft class, there are strong reasons to believe both will end up in Canton someday. Both, in the simplest sense, are gunslingers.
The game on Sunday will be the sixth meeting between the two. This meeting could definitely be a shootout. Neither team enters the game feeling 100 percent confident in their running game. Both of their defenses can certainly be taken advantage of by the other quarterback. Big Ben doesn’t care; he will throw on anybody. Rivers has taken great care of the ball this season and will pick apart the defense. This game will be fun to watch. Will Ben take his record to four wins against Rivers? Will Philip even the head-to-head record? Whichever way it goes, expect to see the ball in the air a lot.
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