Last week's game, another road contest against an NFC East foe, also carried more magnitude than most regular season games. The Cowboys were desperate to avoid another December dive, yet the Chargers invaded the new Cowboys Stadium and controlled the game from beginning to end in a 20-17 win.
"You always want to be on the incline and improving towards the end of the season and through the postseason," Vincent Jackson said. "We still believe that we can get better. Even though we have had success the past couple of weeks, we still have the mentality that we need to improve our mistakes and I think that is what is making us successful."
WR Vincent Jackson
But the Bengals have plenty to play for as well. With a victory, Cincinnati would clinch the AFC North title and leapfrog San Diego in the race for the No. 2 seed.
"I think that we both are two teams that in the beginning of the season, people saw us as two teams that wouldn't be in the position that we are in right now," Marcus McNeill said. "[The Bengals] are playing great football right now and so are we. It's about time for people to realize that we both are good teams."
There are a couple factors working in San Diego's favor going into this showdown. Firstly, the Bengals laid an egg in their playoff litmus test last week against the Minnesota Vikings, dropping a 30-10 decision. Secondly, Cincinnati struggled in its other trip to California this season, losing to the Oakland Raiders, 20-17.
If the Chargers can take advantage, it could lay the groundwork for the most successful playoff run in franchise history. Because with a win over the Bengals, San Diego would be one victory away -- at worst -- from the No. 2 seed. That would put San Diego one home playoff win away from its second AFC title game in the last three seasons.
"We just take it one game at a time," Brandon Siler said. "You want to win each time you go out there and play and every one of them is important to us. We want to win every one of them each week so we are going to approach this game like we do all the rest of them."
If the Chargers do indeed approach this game like they have the last eight, Bolts backers have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the outcome.
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Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.