The LA Chargers really put themselves in a tough situation by losing to the Houston Texans in Week 16. Prior to Week 16, the Bolts controlled their own destiny with the playoffs and the Texans game was seemingly penciled in as a win. Instead, the Chargers played their ugliest game of the year and lost to a four-win Texans team.
The Chargers now need some help to get to the playoffs and if you have read our work here at Bolt Beat then you know the most common path to the playoffs. The Chargers have to beat both the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders and need the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins to lose at least one game.
Luckily, the Ravens have to play the Los Angeles Rams, who are fighting to win the NFC West, and the always-tough Pittsburgh Steelers. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have to play the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots. On paper, the Chargers should make the playoffs.
There is another team in the mix that could help the LA Chargers as well: the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are currently the leader in the AFC North after blowing out the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16 and they too could be very instrumental to the Chargers' playoff hopes.
The Cincinnati Bengals can help the LA Chargers playoff chances by losing out in 2021.
If the Chiefs lose out then the LA Chargers would have an even higher chance of making the playoffs in 2021. We were playing around with ESPN's Playoff Machine and the Bengals losing both games to end the season clearly has a big impact on the LA Chargers playoff chances.
The Bengals play the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns to end the season. The Chiefs are trying to lock up the no. 1 seed so they certainly will be giving their all against the Bengals while the Browns are a divisional opponent that could absolutely beat the Bengals, especially with how volatile Cincy has been this season.
The Bengals losing out means that the Chargers no longer need the Baltimore Ravens to lose. If the Bengals lose out and the Ravens out, Baltimore would win the AFC North and the Chargers would make the playoffs as a wild-card as they have the tiebreaker over the Bengals.
The Chargers would still need the Dolphins to lose at least one game but they can still get into the playoffs if Baltimore wins out as long as Cincy loses both. If Cincy wins one of these games then the Chargers miss the playoffs if Baltimore wins out.
In fact, the Bengals losing both games also opens the door for the Chargers to split the final two games of the season and still make the playoffs. No matter what happens in the other AFC North games, if the Bengals lose out then the Chargers will have the tiebreaker over any of the other AFC North teams with a 9-8 record.
However, the team obviously still wants to win out because if it splits it would need even more things to happen. The Dolphins would have to go 0-2, which is possible against the Titans and Patriots. Also, if the Raiders beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17 and then beat the Chargers in Week 18 they would make the playoffs. If the Raiders beat the Colts but lose to the Chargers (and the Chargers lose to the Broncos), then the Bolts would still get in as long as Denver doesn't beat the Chiefs in Week 18.
Once again, we obviously want the LA Chargers to win out but we should be rooting for the Bengals to lose out as well. A lot of wild scenarios can play out over these last two weeks and the Bengals losing both games undoubtedly helps the LA Chargers' chances.
In fact, according to FiveThirtyEight, the Chargers have a 53% chance of making the playoffs if the Bengals lose both games and the Dolphins lose at least one game, regardless of the Ravens' outcome. If the Chargers beat the Broncos that jumps up to 71%.