Chargers fans in need of talking down from the ledge after a second straight loss on Sunday should just look to last year for assurance when assessing their playoff situation.
Remember last year, when the Bolts needed to win their last two games, then have a whole bunch of teams lose in order to get a postseason berth? It all happened, the Chargers made the playoffs and even won a road game in Cincinnati.
Can the team catch lightning in a bottle again this year? It can happen, although once again it’s getting less and less likely. But the Chargers can keep their going after the regular-season finale in two weeks.
First, let’s look at the AFC playoff standings:
5. Steelers – 9-5 (wild card #1)
6. Ravens – 9-5 (wild card #2)
7. Chiefs – 8-6
8. Chargers – 8-6
9. Bills – 8-6
First and foremost, the Bolts need to win their final two games. A month ago, that seemed like a tall feat, going into San Francisco and Kansas City, pulling out victories over the 49ers and Chiefs.
Fortunately, the Niners have tanked, eliminated from the playoffs and perhaps on the verge of firing coach Jim Harbaugh. There’s no better time to play them than this Saturday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
Then it would come down to the finale against the division-rival Chiefs. If you are starting to get déjà vu, that’s because it all came down to the final game against KC last year, which the Bolts won in overtime. The difference then was the Chiefs already had a playoff berth clinched. They’ll be battling for one of the final spots just like us.
OK, so assuming the Chargers finish 10-6, that leaves them needing to leapfrog either Pittsburgh or Baltimore to get one of the two wild card spots.
They already hold a head-to-head tiebreaker with Baltimore, having beaten the Ravens earlier in the season. That means they just Baltimore to lose once in its final two games – at the Houston Texans (7-7) and home against the Cleveland Browns (7-7). That might not be likely, but crazier things have happened.
Meanwhile, the Steelers host those same Chiefs, then the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals. Unfortunately, they’ll need to lose both those home games, as they hold the tiebreaker over the Chargers with a better conference record.
The Bolts also have a win over Buffalo, ensuring a higher spot in the pecking order should they have identical records at the end of the season.
So, yes, there’s work to do. But it’s not crazy to see the Chargers making a second straight playoff appearance. The first order of business is to take care of business, then hope for the best.