While the LA Chargers were not playing, Week 11's Thursday Night Football matchup would have playoff implications for the Bolts. Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are AFC playoff contenders and the Bengals losing would increase the Chargers' chances of making a playoff push.
The Ravens comfortably beat the Bengals on Thursday night to increase the Chargers playoff odds (which now sit at 29% after TNF, per the New York Times). But that obviously was not the biggest story of the night as Joe Burrow left the game early with a wrist injury that made him unable to grip the football.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said after the game that Burrow has a sprained wrist, which can vary drastically in severity and could keep the star quarterback out for as many as two weeks to the rest of the season. Burrow is set to have an MRI on Friday and that should reveal where he stands.
Regardless, Burrow's injury creates an unfortunate reality for the Bengals that the Chargers benefit from.
Joe Burrow injury will help the Chargers' playoff push
No fan should ever root for injury of another player but it would be dishonest if we pretended like the Burrow injury did not increase the Chargers' playoff chances. The Bengals are one of the main teams that the Chargers are competing with for a final playoff spot and their road just got much, much tougher.
That road was already going to be a bumpy one for the Bengals as well. Every single team that the Bengals play in the last seven games of the season has a .500 record or better. If Burrow returns late in the season then a 3-4 record might be the best-possible scenario for Cincy. Realistically, the Bengals might be looking at a 2-5 or 1-6 stretch to finish the season.
A 3-4 stretch would give the Bengals eight wins, which would not be enough for a playoff spot. Unless Burrow makes a superhero return and isn't hindered by the injury, it is hard to see a world in which the Bengals win nine games. That is huge for the Chargers.
After Burrow's injury, the ball is firmly in the Chargers' court and if they take care of business and do their job then they can absolutely make the playoffs. The other teams in the mix are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Las Vegas Raiders and New York Jets.
The Raiders and Jets are not real threats. Pittsburgh has a negative point differential and is just waiting to start dropping games. Deshaun Watson is out the rest of the year, hampering the Browns. C.J. Stroud is a rookie with a rookie head coach and could taper off as the season goes along. The Bills have been a nightmare, and have a game against the Chargers later this season.
If the Chargers can get to nine wins and beat the Bills in the process then that may be enough. That is by no means a guarantee, but that is a much easier path than the 10 wins that many fans thought it would take a week ago.
The Chargers benefitted from other teams falling off down the stretch last year as the Bolts were simply the team that won the war of attrition. The attrition is starting to set in this season as well and perhaps the Bolts can repeat history.