A win over the Detroit Lions would have done wonders for the LA Chargers' playoff hopes. The team would have been 5-4 and would have finally secured a signature win over an elite opponent. Instead, the Chargers put up a good fight but allowed over 500 yards of offense and 41 points to lose by three.
The 4-5 Chargers now find themselves lower on what is a very crowded AFC totem pole. Brandon Staley's team has given itself an even larger uphill battle, especially considering that nine wins might not be enough to even make the playoffs in the AFC.
It is going to be a tough eight weeks for the Bolts and the team is going to have to be nearly perfect. That being said, just like last year, the Chargers are already getting some external help. The Chargers' path to making the playoffs in the AFC has gotten easier since losing to the Lions without the Bolts even taking the field.
Chargers' playoff path gets easier as Bills and Browns flounder
First, the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo shockingly lost to the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football in a game that was riddled with mistakes. Buffalo is now 5-5 on the season and with a brutal schedule ahead, it is not crazy to think that the Chargers can finish with a better record.
But that is not the main reason why Buffalo may have helped the Chargers, and it does not even have to do with the teams' Week 16 matchup. Instead, the Bills helped the Chargers by making the brash decision to fire offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey after Monday's loss.
This was a drastic scapegoat move by the Bills as Sean McDermott likely feels his seat heating up. Statistically, the Bills' offense was one of the best in the league with McDermott calling the shots. Buffalo forcing itself to have a new coordinator and offensive play-caller probably isn't the wisest move while trying to save a playoff spot.
As Buffalo's disastrous season continues, the Cleveland Browns just received disastrous news. Starting quarterback Deshaun Watson will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. Watson has not been great this season but the Browns are a better team when he is under center. Making a playoff run with PJ Walker under center is not the easiest thing to do.
Cleveland's defense is the strength of the team but you still need a quarterback that can pilot the offense in key spots to win games when they matter. The Browns have a tougher remaining strength of schedule than the Chargers, so Watson being out could make a huge difference.
Cleveland is 5-1 in games that Watson started this season and is 1-2 in games that he did not start. Picking up four wins in the last seven games is suddenly much tougher, and could keep Cleveland from reaching that coveted 10-win mark.
Making the playoffs in the NFL isn't just about talent, it is about winning the war of attrition and that was the main reason why the Chargers made the playoffs last year. If the Chargers can start stringing some wins together then the seas may part for Justin Herbert and Co. to make the playoffs after all.
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