San Diego Chargers updated path to the 2013 NFL Playoffs

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Heading into the final week of the season, the San Diego Chargers' hopes of sneaking into the 2013 NFL Playoffs are still alive. Here are the teams that they need to lose next Sunday to pull off the miracle.

Baltimore Ravens

Despite losing to the New England Patriots 41-7 yesterday, the 2012 Super Bowl Champions have the 6th seed locked up in the AFC. Okay, not "locked up", but it's theirs if they can win a single game.

To free the 6th seed up, fans of the Chargers (and Dolphins) will be rooting for the Ravens to lose their final game to the Cincinnati Bengals.

For what it's worth, the Bengals have plenty to play for. A win against the Ravens, and a Patriots loss to the pesky Bills, would give Cincinnati a bye week and get them past the Wild Card round of the playoffs. In addition, it would give them home-field advantage against everyone but the Denver Broncos.

Here's where things get fun for Chargers fans. The Bengals are 7-0 at home this season, and they'll be taking on the Ravens in Cincinnati next week. When the two teams met in Baltimore, the Ravens won by just 3 points. In addition, Joe Flacco's knee is all sorts of messed up.

A betting man would tell you to put money on the Bengals to knock the Ravens out of that 6th seed.

What we're rooting for: An 8-0 home record for the Cincinnati Bengals, including a Week 17 win over the Ravens and their hobbled QB.

Miami Dolphins

Heading into Sunday, the Miami Dolphins were white hot. There was no way they were going to lose to the lowly Buffalo Bills.

Well, a 19-0 final score later, the Bills should be receiving some sort of gift basket filled with California burritos and fish tacos because they kept the Chargers alive with their win.

Now it's up to the 7-8 New York Jets, who are playing for the job of their head coach, Rex Ryan. The Jets lost to the Dolphins a few weeks ago, with a final score of 23-3, in New York, but rookie QB Geno Smith is playing better football now than he was then. Now they'll head to Miami to play spoiler.

Somewhat ironically, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill also injured his knee and will be hobbled against the Jets next week. After playing his worst game of the season, getting benched for Matt Moore, there's reason to believe that the Dolphins surprising run towards the playoffs might be over.

What we're rooting for: Rex Ryan to keep his job with a win over the Dolphins and their hobbled QB, and Geno Smith to keep up his hot play as of late.

Kansas City Chiefs

The 11-4 Chiefs no longer have anything to play for. Win or lose, they're going to be the 5th seed in the AFC. They can't get a bye week or home-field advantage over anyone besides the 6th seed.

Andy Reid has an insanely good record in games after a bye week, and his Chiefs team is fighting a whole bunch of nagging injuries, so I fully expect him to rest his starters even if he hasn't yet publicly said he will.

In addition to not wanting to risk injury, or tax his players' body for no real reason, Andy Reid isn't going to want to show the Chargers coaching staff anything if these two teams could possibly meet up in the playoffs.

That would mean a whole game of going up against Brady Quinn, Knile Davis, and a whole bunch of other guys that the Chiefs coaching staff are happy they don't have to rely upon in a playoff game. Also, it means a gameplan as vanilla as a preseason game.

What we're rooting for: The Chargers' starters beating the Chiefs' backups, with San Diego playing for their playoff lives and Kansas City playing for absolutely nothing.

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