Los Angeles Chargers: Looking at the AFC Playoff Race
By Sean Kirk
Through most of Week 8, the Chargers sit at 13th place in the AFC playoff race, which is obviously not ideal. But considering they started off 0-4, they got back on track and hung in with the defending world champions. Let’s take a closer look at where they stand in the playoff race.
Now, my three division locks are the Patriots, Chiefs and Steelers. In my opinion, these three teams are extremely likely to win their divisions. The AFC South will be a toss up between the Jags, Texans and Titans (the Colts are done).
In the AFC East, the Bills have played well this season and have put themselves in a good position for a playoff spot with a 5-2 record. However, they have still yet to play the Patriots. In addition, they also have to play the Saints, Chargers, Chiefs, Patriots (x2) and Dolphins (x2). I don’t see them winning more than two of those games. I think they’ll end up going around 9-7.
Staying in the East, I’m pretty sure the Dolphins are done. You might say,Wait, they’re 4-3!” However, they just lost 40-0 to a, at best, par Ravens team. Not to mention the fact that they’re head coach, a former OC, just admitted that they have the worst offense in the league. They play the Raiders, Panthers, Bucs, Patriots (x2), Broncos, Bills (x2) and Chiefs. They legitimately could lose every game they play for the rest of the season, unless they get a couple lucky wins. They don’t pose any playoff threat.
Finally, the Jets started off the season relatively well but have dug themselves in a 3-5 hole without a competent QB. So, the Patriots pretty much will win the division relatively easy.
In the AFC North, the Ravens are in the wild card hunt with a 4-4 record. However, they haven’t beat one competent team yet. They won games against the Bengals, Browns, Raiders and Dolphins, none of which have favorable odds of making it into the postseason. Other than Cleveland, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, they don’t have any easy games. They play the Titans, Packers, Texans, Lions and Steelers. I don’t see them going better than 9-7, if that.
The Bengals are a bad team who still have to play the Jags, Titans, Broncos, Steelers, Bears, Vikings, Lions and Ravens. They won’t go better than .500. Should I even mention the Browns? I see the Steelers going 11-5 and taking the division.
In the AFC South, the race is tight between the Jags and Titans (both 4-3) and the Texans (3-4). The Titans are a really inconsistent team, beating the Seahawks one week but losing to the Dolphins another. They have to play the Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Cardinals, Rams and Jags. They’ll lose at least four out of six of those games. I see them being 9-7 or 8-8.
The Jags have a great pass rush and secondary but no quarterback. Their only offensive ability is their run game with Leonard Fournette. They’re another inconsistent team who have lost to the Jets one week but beat the Steelers another. They still have to play the Chargers, Cardinals, Seahawks, Texans and Titans. I think they’ll go 9-7. The Texans boast a talented offense led by Deshaun Watson and a defense which has struggled after injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. They have to play the Rams, Cardinals, Ravens, Titans, Jags and Steelers. At best, they’ll go 9-7, 8-8 most likely. Whomever wins the division will have a record no better than 9-7.
Finally, in the AFC West, the Chiefs are likely going to be close to three games ahead of everyone else in the division. The Chiefs will very likely take the division with a record of about 11-5. The Broncos have no offense and are quickly falling to pieces. They still have to play the Chiefs (x2), Eagles, Patriots, Raiders, Jets and Redskins. They won’t make the playoffs. The Raiders just lost to Buffalo (34-14) and are also quickly falling to pieces. Their offense looks very incompetent and their defense has lots of holes. They’re 3-5 and still have to play the Patriots, Broncos, Giants, Chiefs, Cowboys, Eagles and Chargers. At best, they’ll go 7-9.
That leaves the Chargers. They go into the bye and will get a healthy Denzel Perryman back for Week 10, which is absolutely huge. Although they are 3-5, they are not out of the playoff hunt. They’ll have to go at least 3-1 in both the third and fourth quarters of the season. Jacksonville has a good defense but a very poor offense. The Chargers should be able to beat them. Then, they play the Bills, who haven’t played any competent teams and are not a hard team to beat. Dallas is a good team, but hopefully Ezekiel Elliott is suspended, which would severely limit their offense. They are an average team without him and very beatable. Even with Elliott, should the Chargers have momentum going into the game, they should be able to beat them. Cleveland and Washington are below-average teams which, if the Chargers deserve to be in consideration of playoffs, should be able to beat.
The last three games in December (Philip Rivers’ best month), are against the Jets, Chiefs and Raiders. The Jets and Raiders are both bad teams. The Chiefs are hard to beat, but maybe the Chargers could find a way to beat them, especially if there is more on the line for them than the Chiefs, who at the time may already have clinched a spot.
So, Chargers fans shouldn’t give up hope yet. If the coaching staff makes some adjustments in terms of play calling and decision making, the Chargers are not done. The AFC wild card race will be a toss up.