It’s safe to say no passer in the NFL is more underrated than Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
Unlike his Class of 2004 draftmates, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who’ll be on the opposing sideline today at Heinz Field, Rivers has yet to win a Super Bowl, but he’s been a model of consistency since he became the full-time starter in 2006.
The Chargers (8-3) trail the Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) by one game in the AFC West, and with the recent breaking news regarding Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, who was released Friday, the city of Los Angeles could have two teams potentially hosting divisional round playoff games.
To make that possible, Rivers must guide the offense against a Steelers’ defense with an emerging star linebacker in T.J. Watt. Rivers won’t have running back Melvin Gordon to keep the defense from pinning its ears back, but Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in a committee approach should be a suitable replacement.
Los Angeles is one of a few teams left that still uses a fullback, and it might be exciting for their families if Chargers fullback Derek Watt gets to throw blocks at his brother.
Roethlisberger has thrown five interceptions in the past two games, and if the Chargers can get pressure him, he may commit a few more turnovers, especially if he’s still not on the same page with star wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Heinz Field is one of the toughest stadiums for road teams in this league, and Pittsburgh has done well at home (3-2) this season. But the Chargers have won four of six away games in 2018.
A victory for the Chargers adds more to the lore of Rivers and to a draft class that produced three future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks in the first round -- and one mediocre one in J.P. Losman.
For those who doubt Rivers, I wouldn’t suggest sleeping on him because he’s deserving of a ring.
This might be his year.
Final score: Chargers 34, Steelers 27
Thursday Twitter Pick
The primetime matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints was the most-watched Thursday night game ever, according to a report by Charean Williams at NBCSports.com, so I guess the whole “the NFL is dying” narrative can be buried.
Next to it, you can start digging the plot for the MVP hopes of Saints quarterback Drew Brees after his less-than-stellar performance in a 13-10 loss to the Cowboys. If his play slips down the stretch, there are many more deserving players out there.
Best of the rest
Atlanta Falcons 24, Baltimore Ravens 21
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan faces a tough test from a talented Ravens’ secondary, but he will rise up to the challenge.
Denver Broncos 21, Cincinnati Bengals 17
Pulling the Broncos to .500 on the season should quell any potential grumbles from the fan base about making a coaching change.
Los Angeles Rams 33, Detroit Lions 17
I know big-league sports writers tend to fawn over quarterbacks when it comes to end-of-season accolades, but Rams running back Todd Gurley should be considered a serious contender for league MVP honors.
Green Bay Packers 27, Arizona Cardinals 14
Let’s be real -- some teams tank at this point of the season, but the Cardinals are too terrible to toss in the towel on purpose.
Buffalo Bills 17, Miami Dolphins 14
I can’t believe I’m typing “Bills” and “three-game winning streak” in the same sentence, but here we are …
Chicago Bears 23, New York Giants 20
The Bears’ defense will carry this team until quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is healthy enough to put the squad back on his shoulders.
Carolina Panthers 28, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24
Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey continues to surpass expectations in his sophomore season.
Indianapolis Colts 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 14
It’s hard to comprehend how the Jaguars were a playoff-caliber team a season ago.
Houston Texans 26, Cleveland Browns 23
The Browns will show flashes of what their future may look like with their offensive talent, but the Texans will ultimately prevail in one of the better football matchups this week.
Tennessee Titans 22, New York Jets 16
I wonder if the Jets regret trading quarterback Teddy Bridgewater prior to the start of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs 38, Oakland Raiders 16
The Chiefs are on the hunt for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but in the offseason, they’ll be hunting for a new running back.
New England Patriots 30, Minnesota Vikings 27
Patriots running back James White should see a large volume of targets in the passing game.
Seattle Seahawks 29, San Francisco 49ers 16
With wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin set to miss today’s game due to injuries, the 49ers won’t have many opportunities to put the ball in the end zone.
Philadelphia Eagles 27, Washington Redskins 20
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz faces off against a Redskins’ defense that halfway resembles what a future Alabama All-Decade defense might look like.
Last week’s record: 12-3
Overall record (through Week 12): 103-73
Perfect picks: 1