Dec. 13, 2013
Why San Diego Will Get The 6 Seed In The AFC
Several teams are in the running for the AFC's sixth seed, but San Diego is poised to capture it...
Thanks to Phillip Rivers having his best season yet, the San Diego Chargers remain in the playoff hunt at 6-7.
Written by Jake Elman
Is it possible to be an underrated team at 6-7? That's the question the playoff hopeful San Diego Chargers are eager to answer.
Playing in a division that hosts two of the best teams in the NFL this year - the 11-2 Denver Broncos and 10-3 Kansas City Chiefs - one would expect that the San Diego Chargers would be either a putrid team or one that was forgotten about; maybe even both if the season was that bad.
After all, it had all the makings of a down season in sunny San Diego. Former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator and guru Mike McCoy took over for the embattled Norv Turner in what everyone expected to be a rebuilding year. The AFC West - once one of the worst divisions in the league - now had the potential to have two playoff teams in Denver and Kansas City. It seemed like the Chargers would be bad enough that they'd get a top five pick in May's stacked draft.
Questions surrounded the future of the team. Would Ryan Mathews be the running back of the future?How much longer would Phillip Rivers be the starting quarterback of the future for the Chargers? Would the Chargers even remain in San Diego, or would they relocate to somewhere like Los Angeles or London?
Without a doubt, the future for the San Diego Chargers appeared to be dark and desolate.
Yet, they seem to have not gotten the memo.
With a 6-7 record entering week 15, the Chargers are on the brink of the playoffs. Phillip Rivers has somehow revived - and possibly saved - his career; he currently is 118 yards away from 4,000 this season while also approaching his first 30 touchdown since 2010 (he has 28) and only 9 picks. Rivers has been helped by veteran sparkplug Danny Woodhead (65 receptions and 6 touchdowns) and rookie Keenan Allen (nearly 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns) on the offense, while veteran linebacker Donald Butler has been one of the few good players on the defense (64 combined tackles).
Their record may be 6-7, but take away a couple of close losses to Houston and Tennesee - both of whom have fallen on tough times since - and the Chargers are 8-5. Thank whoever you want, but the person who should deserve the most praise is their first year coach and offensive guru Mike McCoy, who has turned this team around quickly with a quality of leadership not seen in years under Norv Turner.
Offensive guru Mike McCoy has turned this team around quickly..
With a win tonight, the Bolts would move to a .500 record at 7-7; they'd be setting themselves up to have a great chance at a playoff run. But, things won't be that easy, as their opponent tonight is the 11-2 Denver Broncos, who have terrorized defenses all year. Peyton Manning vs Phillip Rivers in what could potentially be their final matchup.
As it stands currently, the Chargers are a game back of the 7-6 Baltimore Ravens, who currently hold the six seed. Miami, who is also 7-6, is on the outside looking in, but holds a tiebreaker over San Diego and (partially) the Jets. Now, the Chargers have three games left to change their seeding - tonight in Denver, then home against Oakland and Kansas City. That's two games against teams who have the potential to be the #1 seed in the AFC and go to the Supe Bowl.
By all means, it would appear that the Chargers' playoff hopes are slim at best. However, if you really think about it, that's not truly the case.
Out of the four or so teams in the running for that 6 seed in the AFC, I would bet on San Diego having the best shot to make the playoffs. They have a high-powered and dynamic offense that's led by an inteligent veteran quarterback. I expect Rivers to come alive the same way he did down the stretch in 2008 when they went from 4-8 to the AFC Championship Game; I'd be shocked if Phillip Rivers were to struggle in the final three games and end up costing them a playoff spot.
Their schedule, at first glance, would seem to be difficult for the remainder of the season, but when you remember that Oakland is in a free-fall and the Chiefs are likely to rest their players in week 17, that's two wins right there. Don't forget that they're playing at home those final two games; as we've seen in the past, home field advantage does a lot to a team and for a team.
The Broncos, though, will give them the toughest matchup for sure. They may be 11-2, but they still do have something to play for - that being the AFC West division title. On a cold, blustery night in Denver, we could - no, we will - see a shootout. Peyton vs Rivers, just like in the old intense, heated, and classic Colts-Chargers games in that stretch from the late 2000's.
It'll be a tough game, one that could very well end the Chargers' season the way that they ended the New York Giants' season this past Sunday. With a win, though, San Diego has a great chance to be the 6 seed, and I like them pulling off the upset tonight in Denver. Chargers as the AFC's final playoff team? Put it in the books.
You can follow Jake Elman on Twitter at @JakeElman