Think about this, for a second. When discussing the AFC West, every team in the division still has a chance to win it. If the San Diego Chargers win-out, they'll finish the season 9-7. One of those victories will come at the expense of the Oakland Raiders, meaning they could finish 8-8 at best in this scenario. If they lost to the Chiefs on Saturday, Kansas City could win-out and finish 8-8. Do you see what I'm getting at? If that Chargers win their last 2 games, they only need to worry about the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos play the Buffalo Bills this week, in Buffalo, in what is a losable game for a still-very-good Broncos team. The week after, in a game that I'm hoping will be dubbed "Kyle Orton's Sweet Revenge", Denver faces yet another "bad" team that has beaten good teams in the past and therefore stand a chance at victory. If San Diego wins out and Kansas City beats Denver, the Chargers (and Norv Turner and A.J. Smith) have found their way back to the NFL playoffs.
The key in there is the Chargers winning out. It's not going to be an easy road for them, facing a very good Detroit Lions team (4-3 at home) that seems playoff bound and an Oakland Raiders team that always seems to cause them fits.
The Lions are not the Ravens. They're not a good team that has lost to some bad teams. The teams they've lost to are all in the playoff hunt, with the exception maybe being the Chicago Bears (who they lost to when Jay Cutler was still around and looking like a master of Mike Martz' offense). Their other four losses have come against the Packers, Falcons, Saints and 49ers (the famous "handshake game").
Detroit's offense borders on "great", regularly putting up 30+ points against good defenses, and a big part of that is Calvin Johnson. "Megatron", as he's known, is as close as you can come to an uncoverable Wide Receiver. He's incredibly tall, fast, strong and has great hands and balance. And, unlike Malcom Floyd, he manages to stay healthy most of the time. I'm a little concerned that the Chargers have no answer for him, with Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason looking lost against less talented receivers this year.
The good news is that Detroit's defense is nothing special. Most of the time they're scoring 30+ points, they need every last one of them. Despite a lot of talent along the defensive line, the Lions actually sport the league's worst rushing defense (giving up 5.2 yards per carry). Their secondary isn't great, but their pass-rush makes up for a lot of that. If the Chargers can find a way to slow that down the same way they did with the Ravens defense, Philip Rivers and Ryan Mathews should be able to score some points.
The key to this mini-run by the Chargers has been relatively simple: Start fast and build a lead. It's the opposite of most of what we've seen from Norv Turner's Chargers teams, but it obviously works. If they can play some strong and creative defense, and the offense can get going right from the start, they could end up in position to leave Detroit with their playoff hopes in tact.