After the goal line debacle on Sunday, and all the dust from the other week 9 games had settled, the San Diego Chargers' path to the playoffs appears to have taken a significant hit.
Here's what we know so far. It's really, really likely that these five teams reach the playoffs:
All of those teams are at least two games clear in their respective race, and the ones with just a two game cushion also happen to have relatively easy schedules the rest of the way.
Here's a look at those teams, along with their remaining opponents.
|Kansas City Chiefs||1||9||0||@DEN, SD, DEN, @WSH, @OAK, IND, @SD|
|New England Patriots||2||7||2||@CAR, DEN, @HOU, CLE, @MIA, @BAL, BUF|
|Indianapolis Colts||3||6||2||STL, @TEN, @AZ, TEN, @CIN, HOU, @KC, JAX|
|Cincinnati Bengals||4||6||3||@BAL, CLE, @SD, IND, @PIT, MIN, BAL|
|Denver Broncos||5||7||1||@SD, KC, @NE, @KC, TEN, SD, @HOU, @OAK|
While the Chargers aren't actually eliminated from the AFC West, it's virtually a guarantee that (at 4-4) their playoff path will have to come via the sixth slot in the AFC.
Here are the contenders for that sixth slot:
|New York Jets||6||5||4||@BUF, @BAL, MIA, OAK, CAR, CLE, @MIA|
|Tennessee Titans||7||4||4||JAX, IND, @OAK, @IND, @DEN, AZ, @JAX, HOU|
|Miami Dolphins||8||4||4||@TB, SD, CAR, @NYJ, @PIT, NE, @BUF, NYJ|
|San Diego Chargers||9||4||4||DEN, @MIA, @KC, CIN, NYG, @DEN, OAK, KC|
|Cleveland Browns||10||4||5||@CIN, PIT, @JAX, @NE, CHI, @NYJ, @PIT|
Take a look at that schedule from here on out for the Chargers: Denver twice, Kansas City twice, and Cincinnati. That's five games against likely playoff teams, while no other team above has more than three games against potential playoff teams.
Perhaps just as bad as the Chargers schedule is the fact that the Jets and Miami meet twice. What you may think is the best case scenario, a split, still guarantees each side at least one victory. And based on our game against Miami, it may actually be wise to root for Miami victories in both games, as it would help with tiebreakers, while it would imply the Jets have at least six losses.
- Miami has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Cleveland.
- Tennessee has the head-to-head tiebreaker over San Diego and the New York Jets.
This may not look good for the Chargers, but it'll really only be applicable in three scenarios:
- The Chargers tie for the Wild Card with just Tennessee.
- The Chargers lose to Miami and then tie with Tennessee and Miami for the Wild Card.
- The Chargers tie for the Wild Card with Tennessee and the New York Jets.
In the first and third scenarios, the Titans win the Wild Card. In the second, we're eliminated and the Wild Card is determined by further tiebreakers for Tennessee and Miami.
If the head-to-head sweep doesn't end up breaking the tie (and the Chargers are still alive), it comes down to conference record. For that, it's easier just to look at the number of losses a team has against the NFC. And in this case, losses against the NFC are a good thing, as it implies a better record against our own conference.
0 losses: Jets
1 loss: Miami, San Diego
2 losses: Cleveland, Tennessee
Yikes. Perhaps we should just summarize the Chargers tiebreaking scenario as follows: the Chargers can only win the Wild Card tiebreaker if they tie against only the New York Jets, beat the Dolphins and tie only with them, or tie with several teams for the Wild Card with one of their final losses being against the New York Giants.
It doesn't look too good. Besides having a tough schedule, the tiebreaking procedures don't look too favorable to the Chargers either. With the way the team has played, we may be content by San Diego taking just 2 of the 4 games they have against Denver and Kansas City. Unfortunately, however, the Chargers will probably have to take three of them if they want a legitimate chance at the Wild Card.
While nine wins might get you a playoff birth, the Chargers have such long odds of having the Wild Card tiebreakers work in their favor that they basically have to get to ten wins to ensure the spot. If they were to go just 2-2 against KC and Denver, it'd require winning every other game on the schedule.
As to what to root for this week: a miracle. No, really. the Browns and the Jets both are on byes, while Tennessee and Miami both get winless teams. Meanwhile, the Chargers face arguably the best team in football.