The team has suffered 6 straight crushing defeats and there are multiple division rivals playing some of their best football of the year, but when you look at the standings and the remaining games you can see that the Chargers are not yet mathematically eliminated. In fact, they won't even be eliminated by this time next week. That's not to say anyone should go place bets on the Chargers making the playoffs or winning the division. It's just the reality of how difficult it is to be eliminated from playoff contention by the end of week 13. Back in 2008, when the Chargers were 4-8 and the Broncos were 8-4, I had written off the Chargers playoff hopes. Since that season, I always try to keep in mind what it would take to get in. To illustrate the ridiculous journey it would take, here are two sets of mathematically possible standings that would reset in the Chargers winning the division without using a tiebreaker.
In each of these I gave each team its best possible finish that resulted in a Chargers outright division title. The Chiefs could lose most of their remaining games and it might not affect either of the scenarios where the Chargers get the crown, but you were probably smart enough to figure that out and not let it bother you.
After the jump we will cover most of the scenarios where the Chargers win the division using tiebreakers.
Two way ties:
With OAK: SD can't win HTH (#1 tiebreaker), but can lose it with loss in week 17. SD can get a better division record (#2 tiebreaker) with week 17 win over the OAK and a OAK losing @KC in week 16 (3-3 vs 2-4). In common games (#3 tiebreaker) OAK is 4-4 with 4 to play. SD is 4-6 with 2 to play. The only scenario where this tiebreaker comes into play and SD wins it is if both teams finish 8-8 with SD's one loss is to either BAL or JAC and OAK defeats KC and loses to SD along the way. Similarly, if they finished 8-8 OAK and wins another one of the common games besides KC (MIA, GB or DET) and SD's one loss is to a common opponent (DET or BUF) then they'd finished tied at 5-7. In conference record (#4 tiebreaker) the Chargers can only tie (if OAK loses to MIA in this scenario) or lose (OAK defeats MIA). Then it comes down to strength of victory (#5 tiebreaker), which is too difficult to cover here.
Least crazy path to tiebreaking victory: SD goes 5-0, Raiders go 2-3 and lose to KC in week 17.
With DEN: HTH is a tie. SD can not win the 2nd tiebreaker (divisional record), but can lose it by either losing to OAK in week 17 or if DEN defeats KC at home in week 17. SD is 4-5 with 3 to play in common games. DEN is 4-3 with 5 to play. SD can win this if they go 4-1, with their only loss coming to BAL or JAC and DEN goes 2-3 and still loses to KC. If SD goes 5-0, then DEN would have to go 3-2, lose to KC and they'd both be 7-5 in these games. In the scenario where SD goes 5-0, that gives them a 7-5 conference record. DEN would have to lose every conference game the rest of the way to finish worse than that. That includes losses to NE, BUF and, of course, KC.
Least crazy path to tiebreaking victory: SD goes 4-1, Broncos go 2-3, lose to KC in week 17 and OAK goes 0-5.
With KC: HTH is a tie. SD can not win the 2nd tiebreaker (divisional record) and still have KC finish with a better record than OAK or DEN since it require two KC losses to divisional opponents. SD is 3-6 with 3 to play in common games. KC is 2-5 with 5 to play. KC will need to lose to DEN and defeat OAK for this tiebreaker to be used. It also requires SD to lose at least one game and defeat OAK in order to finish tied with KC and use this tiebreaker. Given those requirements, SD can only lose (with a loss to BUF or DET) or tie (with a loss to BAL or JAC) with this tiebreaker. The 4th tiebreaker is conference record, which if used will come out 6-6 for SD and 5-7 for KC.
Least crazy path to tiebreaking victory: SD goes 4-1 with a loss to BAL or JAC, KC goes 4-1 with a loss to DEN. OAK goes 0-5. DEN goes 1-4 with the one victory over KC.
Three way ties:
With OAK and DEN: SD can at best finish 2-2 in HTH games (#1 tiebreaker). DEN is already 2-2 and done with HTH games. OAK can at worst finish 2-2 with a week 17 loss to SD. The #2 tiebreaker is divisional record. SD has a path to beat OAK here, but not DEN. If that happened then the tiebreaker reverts back to SD vs. DEN. If they all finish tied here at 3-3 (which requires 8-8 or 7-9 records, by the way), then the #3 tiebreaker is common games. SD can with this one by going 4-1 and only losing to BAL or JAC. Meanwhile DEN goes 3-2, losing to KC in week 17 and OAK goes 1-4 with their one win coming against KC.