The race for the playoffs continues, and the train keeps rolling. Last week the Chargers sat at the 13th spot in the NFL.com power rankings. This week they are at the 14th spot. Obviously, losing to Denver was a big bump in the road. Although it wasn’t totally unexpected… it was a divisional loss, and a conference loss. However, the Chargers had a somewhat admirable performance, which is why I think they only fell one position. 14th is a pretty “middle-of-the-pack” ranking, and isn’t anything to jump up and down about. However, considering some picked this team to be downright awful this year, we can take comfort in the fact that we haven’t broken into the 20’s or 30’s, so far. To me, this says quite a bit about how the league is viewing the Chargers. They are actually the tenth seed right now, but are ahead of the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th seeded teams in the conference. They may not be described as “contenders”, but people aren’t writing them off just yet. I have heard them referred to numerous times as being “a good team” by a lot of the NFL Network staff this week. That’s pretty interesting. Here is what NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison had to say:
Figured Sunday’s AFC West tilt at Qualcomm would involve a bit more scoring than it did. Still, despite the loss, Chargers fans should be encouraged. This team can compete with anybody and, at 4-5, is still very much in the thick of the AFC wild-card race, in a dogfight with the Jets, Ravens, Titans, and Dolphins. The thinking here is that San Diego is better than all but — maybe – the Jets, though Mike McCoy’s group must at least split with Kansas City and take winnable games at home versus the Giants, and Raiders.
There aren’t any AFC teams above us this week that are mis-ranked (per the usual). The Broncos (1st), Chiefs (2nd), Patriots (4th), Colts (7th), Bengals (9th) are all where I expected them to be ranked. However, the Jets DID move up two spots on their bye week. They are now in the 15th spot, right behind us. They travel to Buffalo to play a divisional match-up on Sunday. They just signed Ed Reed earlier this week, so that could make an already stout defense that much better. Or, Reed could continue to play below average, as he did on the Texans. Buffalo’s rookie QB EJ Manuel had a pretty lousy game against the Steelers last week, so facing this Jets defense will be problematic. The game will have a storyline of two rookie QB’s, from the same division, going head-to-head. Geno Smith will be the starting QB over on the other sideline. The Jets are the favorite to win, but divisional games can be unpredictable, and Buffalo has home field advantage. Let’s hope that they can pull out a “W”, and hand the Jets a 5th conference loss. That would be a fairly big blow to their playoff chances, despite finishing out the year with a weak schedule.
As for our beloved Bolts, the answer to stopping their descent down the power rankings is simple. They need to win in Miami on Sunday. Miami has been struggling, and just gave Tampa Bay their first win. The Chargers need to enter this game focused, and keep Philip Rivers protected! It is uncertain who will be starting at left tackle, since neither DJ Fluker nor King Dunlap practiced today. Nick Hardwick was practicing, and Chad Rinehart wasn’t mentioned on the injury report, so that’s good news. If Dunlap & Fluker aren’t playing, we will see Mike Remmers for the first time. I don’t count his first game, because he got hurt, and was taken out almost immediately. On the defensive side of the ball, it appears that Jarret Johnson will play, which is a huge relief. Otherwise, we would be starting both Thomas Keiser, and rookie Tourek Williams. Having Johnson’s experience and run-stuffing ability out on the field will be necessary to help this defense hold together. Also, Donald Butler will be playing in the middle again, and he had a great game against Denver last week.
We got some good news last night, as the Colts beat the Titans in Tennessee on Thursday Night Football. They were also in the wild card hunt, fell to 4-6 on the season, and absorbed another conference loss in the process. It doesn’t look like they will be able to recover from that, but we’ll see. The loss put them behind us in the chase, assuming we can beat Miami this weekend. The other two teams in the hunt go on the road to play tough teams this week. The Ravens travel to Chicago, and the Browns travel to Cincinnati. If they lose, and we win, it would put us in the forefront of the playoff chase again. Should the Jets lose too, the Chargers would reclaim the final playoff spot. Even with the tough schedule ahead, that might give this team the confidence it needs to finish out this season strong. Furthermore, I can’t wait to see how the Chiefs do against the Broncos this weekend. If the Broncos blow out Kansas City, the Chargers will smell blood in the water, and start circling!
Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!