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Playoffs? Chargers Can Help Themselves

Small postseason window expands at 9-7

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Mike Tolbert #35 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown in a 37-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills on December 11, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif.

    Draw out every scenario. Calculate all the odds.

    In the end, they don't matter.

    For the San Diego Chargers to have their best chance at the playoffs this season, they must unequivocally, with 100 percent certainty, absolutely keep doing what they are doing, and that's win.

    So will be the message when the players return to work this week, just as it was Sunday when coach Norv Turner spoke in the locker room after a 37-10 pummeling of the Buffalo Bills.

    Those pesky Denver Broncos? Those eight-win New York Jets?

    "Those things are out of our control," safety Steve Gregory said Sunday. "We focus on us, and we see where the chips fall in the end."

    Mathematically, little is out of the equation.

    Heck, the Kansas City Chiefs (5-8) fired their head coach Monday, and they could still win the AFC West. Even the Chargers, with a hypothetical loss to the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday night, can edge an 8-8 Broncos team in the "best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed" official tie break, of course.

    The Chargers can also be out of the playoff race Sunday night.

    A loss to Baltimore with a Jets win at Philadelphia eliminates the Chargers from the wild card, and a loss to Baltimore with a Broncos win over New England knocks them from AFC West contention.

    Many things are possible.

    One is definite.

    Any chance of a Chargers playoff berth would shrink significantly if they don't defeat the Ravens, Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders to close the season at 9-7.

    Do that, and it very well could get interesting.

    As long as the Jets (8-5), Titans (7-6) or Bengals (7-6) don't finish with double-digit wins, the tie-breaking starts for the final wild-card spot, and the Chargers would survive an all-important separator with a strong 7-5 conference record. They'd hold advantage with their record against common opponents. The Chargers' strength of victory might also come in handy, in light of its improvement from the current .359.

    In a few scenarios, the Week 7 head-to-head loss to the New York Jets haunts them, and if that's what does bring them down, the Chargers can flail up their arms and pat themselves on the back.

    All they can do now is win.