The Chargers most likely first-round opponent if they make the playoffs
By Jason Reed
The LA Chargers are playing a playoff game a week early in Week 18. The Chargers are playing a win-or-go-home game against the Las Vegas Raiders. The winner will get into the AFC playoffs and keep their Super Bowl dreams alive. The loser will go home (barring other crazy outcomes... but it won't happen).
This is the biggest regular-season game that the Chargers have played since Week 17 in 2013 and is the most important game overall that the team has played since the AFC Divisional Round in 2018. We all know that if this team is given a chance to get hot in the playoffs that they could make some serious noise. They just have to get their first.
The AFC playoff picture as a whole is crazy as we head into Week 18. Overall, there are 32 different possible combinations of games that would be played just on the AFC side of things in Wild-Card Weekend. If the Chargers do end up getting in, who are they going to play?
The LA Chargers most likely first-round opponent in the playoffs is the Kansas City Chiefs
If they make the playoffs then the LA Chargers will most likely be the seventh seed. They could be the sixth seed if the Indianapolis Colts lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars but that is just not going to happen. The Jaguars are downright awful and were blown out by a similar team in the New England Patriots in Week 17.
With that being said, the Chargers are most likely to play the second seed in the AFC and the Kansas City Chiefs have all the makings of being that opponent. The Chiefs are the current second seed in the conference and there is a very slim chance that they move either up or down.
To move up the Chiefs would need the Tennessee Titans to lose in Week 18. The Titans are playing the lowly Houston Texans and while they lost to Houston earlier this season, the chances of them losing to the Texans when the no. 1 seed is on the line is slim to none.
Meanwhile, it is hard to see the Chiefs moving down in the playoff seeding as they are taking on the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs play the Broncos in the first game on Saturday so there is no chance of the Titans winning before the Chiefs play and the Chiefs sitting their starters. The Chiefs have to play their starters no matter what, just in case.
There is a pretty high chance that the Chargers would play the Chiefs in Wild-Card Weekend if they make the playoffs. If it is not the Chiefs, though, then it will likely be the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are also playing a team that they should be able to beat in the Cleveland Browns. Granted, the Bengals could just rest the starters as there is no huge difference between the second and third seed.
The other possible opponents (assuming the LA Chargers are the seventh seed) would take the following (we are excluding any ties, which just complicates things much further and let's be honest, won't happen):
Bengals: Bengals win + Chiefs loss + Titans win OR Bengals win + Chiefs win + Titans loss
Titans: Titans loss + Chiefs loss + Bengals win OR Titans loss + Chiefs win + Bengals loss
Bills: Bills win + Titans loss + Chiefs loss + Bengals loss
Then there is a wild situation in which the Titans, Chiefs, Bengals and Bills lose and the Patriots win to become the no. 1 seed. If all that happened, the Chargers would actually move up to the no. 6 seed and play, you guessed it, the Kansas City Chiefs.
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Simply put: expect to play the Kansas City Chiefs for a third time if the LA Chargers make the playoffs with a win over the Las Vegas Raiders.