The San Diego Chargers playoff chances go on the line Thursday night in Denver (8:25 PM ET, NFL Network), when the Bolts pay a visit to the Broncos. San Diego is barely hanging on in the race for the AFC’s #6 seed, with a 6-7 record, and that will be true even if they pull an upset tonight. But a victory in Invesco Field at least keeps Mike McCoy’s team in the playoff picture.
San Diego joins the New York Jets in chasing the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins. The latter two are sitting on 7-6, meaning that it’s likely the Chargers or Jets would have to sweep their remaining games to even keep this topic alive.
Furthermore, as we discussed yesterday in a more in-depth look at the Dolphins, it’s Miami who has key advantages. Their schedule has two home games (albeit against the Patriots and Jets, but at least those are winnable). And from San Diego’s perspective, their 20-16 loss in Miami a few weeks ago was a double whammy–it dropped the Chargers a game behind and cost them tiebreaker position.
As far as catching the Ravens, Baltimore has to play Detroit, New England and Cincinnati down the stretch, so a fade from last year’s Super Bowl champs is much more likely.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with the San Diego Chargers playoff chances is not what might happen with other teams–it’s about trying to win the football game tonight. The Las Vegas moneyline has Denver a (-525) betting favorite to win outright. You can get (+405) odds on the Chargers if you’re really smelling an upset.
San Diego’s big problem is a lack of an effective pass rush. There’s no one in this defensive front seven that an opposing offense has to worry about accounting for in their protection schemes. Is it pointing out the obvious to say that’s suicide when Peyton Manning is the opposing quarterback?
Denver will be without Wes Welker, due to a concussion, but Peyton’s still got Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker at the wideout spots, and Manning still has Julius Thomas at tight end. The Broncos running game has been consistent in recent weeks, be it with Knowshon Moreno or Montee Ball.
Chances are, this game will be a scoring race, and while Philip Rivers is having an excellent comeback year for San Diego, he doesn’t have the weapons to win a shootout with Peyton.
If the Chargers can pull off this upset, they close with home games against Oakland and Kansas City. The likelihood is that the Chiefs will have nothing to play for in Week 17 and may rest starters, so a 9-7 record and possible playoff berth is within reach for San Diego if they win tonight. But even with those juicy odds, I’ll have to pass and pick Denver.