The LA Chargers had a shot at first place in the AFC West on Thursday Night Football and took the Kansas City Chiefs all the way to overtime but ultimately could not get it done. The Chiefs won the coin toss and scored on the first drive of the overtime period to beat the Chargers, 34-28.
The Chargers are still in a good spot to make the playoffs with an 8-6 record as long as they take care of business the next three weeks. The Bolts have the Texans, Broncos and Raiders on the schedule, which should account for at least two wins to get the Chargers to 10 wins. However, as we know in the game of football, anything can happen.
The Chargers could even get knocked out of a playoff spot entirely after losing in Week 15 and could be on the outside looking in as we head into the final three weeks of the season. Luckily, the standings do not finalize after Week 15 but it feels much more comfortable being in a playoff spot rather than being in the hunt.
How the LA Chargers can fall out of a playoff spot in Week 15:
There are four games that all factor into the LA Chargers potentially getting knocked out of the playoff picture and there are exactly three sets of outcomes that would result in the Chargers getting knocked out of one of the top seven seeds. The four games in question are the Browns vs. Raiders (which just got moved to Monday), the Colts vs. Patriots, the Bills vs. Panthers and the Broncos vs. Bengals.
The three sets of outcomes that would result in the Chargers being knocked out are the following (teams listed are the winners):
1. Browns, Colts, Bills, Broncos
2. Browns, Patriots, Bills, Broncos
3. Raiders, Colts, Bills, Broncos
The Bills are probably going to win regardless, but if they lose in any of those instances then the Chargers would get a playoff spot. As far as the rest of the games are concerned, it is pretty clear which games are the most impactful. The Broncos winning is key in all three outcomes.
If the Broncos win then they just need the Browns to win on Monday and the outcome of the Colts Patriots game does not matter at all. Any instance in which both the Browns and Broncos win is going to result in the Chargers getting knocked out of the playoff picture.
However, if the Browns are not able to get the job done against the Raiders, then the Broncos would need the Colts to beat the Patriots in order to push the Chargers out of a playoff spot. If the Broncos beat Bengals, the Patriots beat the Colts and the Raiders beat the Browns then the Broncos would still be in the playoff picture as the sixth seed but the Chargers would squeak in as the seventh seed.
If the Bengals beat the Broncos then it does not matter what happens in the rest of the games. The LA Chargers will be in a playoff spot no matter what after Week 15.
This article was possible thanks to ESPN's NFL Playoff Machine.