After another gut-wrenching loss last Sunday most Chargers fans will probably consider this season to be over. I can definitely understand those sentiments, maybe they’re right, but thanks to an unusually number of below average performing teams in the AFC, there is still a good chance for the Bolts to clinch that last wild-card spot. Behind the Texans, Ravens, Patriots, and Broncos, who are leading their division comfortably, it’s not so clear-cut. Lets take a look.
Currently 5th seed
Remaining opponents W-L: 29-26
Andrew Luck has certainly left his mark with Indianapolis this year, surprising many with great performances and exceeding expectations. Even though the Colts got crushed by the Patriots in week 11 there’s no good reason to assume why they would slow down. They rebounded in week 12 versus the Bills, proving they’re a solid team that knows how to beat the teams they should beat. Take out the two remaining games against the 10-1 Texans, but the other three matches against a struggling Lions team, Titans, and Chiefs, should all offer good possibilities for a win. The Colts definitely look on track to keep the fifth seed.
Currently 6th seed
Remaining opponents W-L: 27-28
The Steelers have a difficult schedule ahead. First they’ll face Baltimore at home, where the Ravens are still undefeated. Next up will be a crucial match with our Bolts. After that they’ll have to travel to Dallas to battle the inconsistent, yet unpredictably dangerous Cowboys. It’s not a totally crazy scenario where Pittsburgh would lose these three games in a row, be at 6-8, before they meet the Bengals in week 16 (another wild-card contender) and a potentially easier match-up with the Browns in week 17. Obviously it will be vital for Pittsburgh to get Ben Roethlisberger back sooner than later. With Charlie Batch at the helm they’ll be in big trouble.
Currently 7th seed
Remaining opponents W-L: 27-28
The Bengals have a very comparable schedule to the Steelers. Aside from the head-to-head in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati also has games against the Chargers, Cowboys, and Ravens left. The order is just a bit different and they have the advantage of meeting the Cowboys and Ravens at home. It’s not the easiest stretch, but with impressive play of quarterback Andy Dalton and elite wide receiver A.J. Green they’re a strong candidate for the sixth seed. First up are the Chargers, in San Diego!
Currently 8th seed
Remaining opponents W-L: 30-24-1
Of all the AFC teams currently at a wild-card spot or in the hunt for one, the Dolphins have the toughest road ahead. They have to face AFC East Division rival New England Patriots twice, in week 13 and 17. The Pats are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. On top of that Miami has a week 14 match-up with the 49ers in San Francisco. No one will have the Dolphins as favorite in these games. Potential home wins against the weaker Jaguars and Bills would still end their season with a 7-9 record. That won’t be enough, not even this year.
Currently 11th seed
Remaining opponents W-L: 18-37
It feels weird to even include the Jets, as many had written them off already. They have such an easy remaining schedule, however, that they can’t be ruled out. None of their final five opponents has a positive record. The Cardinals, Titans, Chargers, and Bills are all at 4-7 right now. The Jaguars are at an even worse 2-9. Three of those are road games, but against the Chargers they’ll have home field advantage. This could be very important. Even if the odds are in favor of them screwing things up, it’s anyone’s guess how Rex Ryan’s green bunch will come out and play. They’re the Joker’s team.
Currently 9th seed
Remaining opponents W-L: 22-33
Looking at the win-loss record of the Bolts’ opponents ahead, they have an easy schedule on paper. Winning out to reach 9-7 would be ideal, but a scenario in which a 8-8 team sneaks into the 6th seed is theoretically possible.
The Chargers absolutely cannot afford to lose against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the coming two weeks. As both the Bengals and Steelers are direct competitors and hold a two game lead, a win against them is imperative to have an eventual head-to-head tie breaking advantage. This could also be true for the Bolts’ week 16 match-up in New York against the Jets. Although by then both could be eliminated already, or one could become a spoiler for the other.
The Chargers’ other two games should be easier. Carolina at home in week 15 should be a lock, provided they’ll be able to contain Cam Newton. In a 8-8 scenario where the Chargers could lose one game, this would be the best one because the Panthers are an NFC team. As for Oakland in week 17, the Bolts will beat them if there’s anything at stake.
Can the Norvelous Chargers, a team that has found so many ridiculous ways to implode and screw up games, suddenly pull off important wins? It is December…