The Bengals don't have their Pro Bowl WILL linebacker for Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium opener (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) and Vontaze Burfict was a huge reason they beat the Chargers the last time in the regular-season with a game-high 13 tackles on a sprained ankle on Dec. 1, 2013.
But they have three guys off big Opening Days last week in Oakland who didn't play in the ensuing Wild Card Game, a 27-10 loss that season to San Diego: cornerback Leon Hall, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, and left guard Clint Boling.
Atkins looked like his old 2012-13 self with a sack and forced fumble and Hall looked better than he did in '14. On Sunday Hall didn't play as many snaps (41) as he usually does because he's only in the slot, but he also held his receivers to five total yards on five catches, according to profootballfocus.com, which graded him tied for 15th among corners.
The word after the Oakland game is Boling and center Russell Bodine played extremely well, meaning that two guys who weren't on the line in the '13 Wild Card Game are going to be out there. Boling, rated PFF's top left guard of Opening Day, couldn't bear to watch tape of the November win in San Diego.
Hard to blame him. He tore his ACL on the fifth play, forcing the Bengals to play with a re-shuffled offensive line down the stretch that slid left tackle Andrew Whitworth to left guard and brought Anthony Collins off the bench to play left tackle.
"I saw the game on our iPad and I just decided not to watch that one," Boling said this week. "It's behind me. I'm not going to watch it again. They have a lot of the same guys over there. Obviously they're a good front and we're looking for a little redemption."
Boling recalled in the regular-season finale, a win over Baltimore the week before the Wild Card Game, every offensive lineman limped off the field at one point, usually with an ankle injury.
'It's tough when it's a re-shuffled group and two guys were banged up. It was the last game for (center Kyle) Cook. He was banged up and so was Andre (Smith). You get that at the end of the season. When you get behind and you have to throw it, you put those guys in a tough rush situation. Hopefully we can be physical and run the ball this week."
GREEN FOCUSED: You'd think how the Chargers manhandled Lions Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson last Sunday would have caught the eye of the Bengals own Pro Bowl wide receiver. Johnson caught just two balls for 39 yards, but Green isn't looking at box scores anymore. Green, whose goal is to close the gap on Johnson as the league's best receiver, admits he would have checked four years ago.
"No," said Green when asked if Johnson's outing raised his eyebrows. "I didn't really check. It's a different week. I'm just focused on what I'm going to do. I don't get caught up in all that other stuff now. I just focus on what I can do and control.
"When I was younger, my first year,' said Green, when asked when he would have checked the numbers. "I don't pay attention. It's how I finish."
Green no doubt saw the tape featuring San Diego cornerback Brandon Flowers, 5-9 compared to Green's 6-4, get safety help. Plus, cornerback Jason Verrett held Lions wide receiver Golden Tait to four catches for 24 yards. Never in their 13 games together had they combined for fewer than seven receptions or 84 yards.
The Chargers didn't have Flowers or Verrett in the '13 Wild Card Game, when Green caught just three balls for 34 yards and dropped a ball inside the San Diego 10. But, again, Green isn't checking.
"It's tough. I thought we had a great chance of winning," Green said. "But it's a new year. We can't take this game and look at it like its revenge. We just have to go out and play our game."
Verrett and Tait are both 5-10, so the Bengals offer some size advantages beyond Green over Flowers. Green did have six catches for 91 yards in the Bengals' 28-6 victory three years ago when Flowers played for the Chiefs. Verrett could get the call against 6-2 Marvin Jones, 6-2 Mohamed Sanu, or 6-6 Tyler Eifert.
INJURY UPDATE: Both starting safeties, Reggie Nelson (groin) and George Iloka (ankle), were limited Thursday after missing Wednesday. So was starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (calf), an add to Thursday's report. Rookie backup cornerback Josh Shaw (groin) also was limited while rookie backup defensive tackle Marcus Hardison (knee) didn't work.