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Wins and Losess: How the Chargers make the Playoffs

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With half the season in the books, Ruben J. Gonzalez and the rest of the staff look into their crystal balls and prognosticate the Chargers' next eight games.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

As the San Diego Chargers embark on the second half of the 2014 season with a 5-3 record, a second consecutive trip to the playoffs is well within reach. If a 10-6 record is the baseline record for a berth into the postseason, the Chargers will need to match their first half record to reach 10 wins. (Since it is still too early to predict tie-breaker scenarios and the fact that Cincinnati holds a winning percentage bonus because of a tie against the Carolina Panthers, we will just focus on reaching the 10-win plateau)

Here are my second half game-by-game predictions:

Nov. 2nd   @ Miami = Win Projected record: (6-3)

The Chargers will be able to get back to their winning ways in a game that is pivotal in so many ways. It ends the 2 game losing streak. It sends the Chargers into their bye the following week in high spirits. But maybe more importantly, the Dolphins may turn out to be a team that San Diego has to contend with for one of the wild card spots down the road. A win would give them a leg-up if they were to end the season in a tie with Miami. The Dolphins are a solid team that will keep this one close. Nick Novak will win it with a late field goal.

Nov. 9th Bye

Nov. 16th Vs Oakland = Win Projected Record: (7-3)

The Charges will be coming off a bye and hosting the Raiders. Hopefully the Chargers will be as close to full health as possible. RB Ryan Mathews should be ready to return if he didn't do so against the Dolphins. CB's Brandon Flowers and Steve Williams should be running at full speed. Jerry Attaochu and Manti T'eo may finally be ready to contribute. And dare I say LB Melvin Ingram could be on the cusp of a return in the coming weeks. The Chargers needed the bye to happen in week 10 as much as anyone. San Diego rolls easily with the same bounce in their step they displayed earlier in the season against Seattle.

Nov 23rd VS St. Louis = Win Projected Record: (8-3)

IF all goes as I have planned, this is the game that the Chargers must view as a must win, because the rest of the way it gets much more difficult as you will see and there will not be much wiggle room for too many losses. The Rams are losing players to season ending injuries as quickly as they are losing games. There is no reason the Chargers lose at home to St. Louis. This is a must win.

Nov 30th @ Baltimore = Loss Projected Record: (8-4)

The Chargers will be on the road in 3 of their final 5 games. They will be facing the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13 and travel to the east coast time zone, meaning a 10am kickoff for their internal clocks. When looking at the Ravens, they are much like the Chargers in that they are capable of beating any team as well as losing to any. This is another crucial game with Wildcard scenarios built into the final score. Baltimore is capable of winning the AFC North Division outright, or sneaks in as a wildcard. This game will have the feel of a playoff game. I'll give the nod to the home team even though they will be coming off a Monday away game at New Orleans.

Dec 7th VS New England = Win Projected Record: (9-4)

The New England Patriots could be coming into this Sunday night matchup with a 6-6 record. I say could because the four opponents for them before this game are Denver, Bye, Indianapolis, Detroit and Green Bay. A mediocre Patriots record could possibly take the game off primetime if it is switched out for a more favorable game. With the way New England is playing, they very well could be 10-2 as well. Nonetheless, the Chargers will still have to contend with Tom Terrific and his 5-1 record versus the Chargers since 2007. But this is December. And Philip Rivers is 30-6 in this month, never having a losing record.  Make it 31-6.

Dec 14th VS Denver = Win Projected Record: (10-4)

With one more win to reach the magic number, the Chargers host the Broncos in a revenge matchup and secure a probable wildcard berth with win number 10. The Chargers will hopefully be at full strength and with a chance to still claim a shot at the AFC West crown, they will come out in front of one of the loudest Qualcomm's and show the football world that  San Diego is not quite a pretender.

Dec 20th @ San Francisco = Loss Projected Record (10-5)

The Chargers will be riding high when they take on the 49ers on this Saturday night matchup.  San Francisco will be coming off a trip from Seattle and that could very well be a loss. But the 49ers will be healthy on the defensive side by this time and the NFC West could still be up in the air as well. As much as I would hope for a Charger victory, I am not sure that they will pull it off.

Dec 28th @ Kansas City= Win (11-5)

And so the Chargers finish the season with a win over the Kansas City Chiefs. This time Brandon Flowers plays the whole game and his presence is felt. This time the Chargers will Chargers the Chiefs, winning the possession battle behind a steady helping of Mathews and Branden Oliver. The victory will also ruin any chances of the Chiefs making the playoffs.

Conclusion

So the Chargers finish 11-5? Not bad huh? It could be 10-6 as well, but a playoff berth is there if they want it. But if that is going to happen, one thing needs to happen and it's the only way the San Diego Chargers make it to the playoffs. The San Diego Chargers need to be healthy.

And stay healthy.

Here are the projections from some of the other BFTB Staff:

Shane Theodore (9-7)

@ Miami        Win

VS Oakland   Win

VS St. Louis     Win

@ Baltimore Loss

VS New England Win

VS Denver   Loss

@ San Francisco   Loss

@ Kansas City Loss

SDNativeinTX      Finish (8-8)

@ Miami        Loss

VS Oakland   Win

VS St. Louis     Win

@ Baltimore   Loss

VS New England Win

VS Denver   Loss

@ San Francisco   Loss

@ Kansas City    Loss

Given the state of both lines, this team has had a charmed life so far.  Yes, the Bolts will get some guys back, but I am certain that they will lose some guys, too.  I think the run blocking and inability to stop the run really hurts this team at the end of the season.

Kirk Willison Finish (10-6)

@ Miami        Win

VS Oakland   Win

VS St. Louis     Win

@ Baltimore   Win

VS New England Loss

VS Denver Loss

@ San Francisco Loss

@ Kansas City    Win

This will be a season of streaks for the Bolts.  After two consecutive losses, the Chargers will roll out four consecutive victories only to stumble again against a Fearsome Threesome of the Pats, Broncos and Niners.  They will right themselves against the Chiefs before embarking on the road for the playoff games.

Kevin Grauel Finish (10-6)

@ Miami        Win

VS Oakland   Win

VS St. Louis     Win

@ Baltimore   Win

VS New England Win

VS Denver   Loss

@ San Francisco   Loss

@ Kansas City Loss

The season ends just as it began, a 5 game winning streak followed by 3 losses. I see the Bolts beating Miami and using the bye to get back to full strength, or at least close. Injuries will start to thin the team out again, and the Chargers will use week 17 to rest their players to get healthy for a playoff run.

Jay Stokes Finish (12-4)

@ Miami        Loss

VS Oakland   Win

VS St. Louis     Win

@ Baltimore   Win

VS New England Win

VS Denver   Win

@ San Francisco   Win

@ Kansas City    Win

Probably more aspirational than deeply thoughtful, but I see this team being very different if we get Flowers, Verrett, T'eo, Ingram and Mathews back.  If we lose other key contributors, things change, but we have our two toughest post-BYE games at home.  We won't get Woodhead or Hardwick back, but I don't think it was a mirage how well they were playing when they had the bulk of their core players healthy.

Jeff Siniard Finish (10-6)

@ Miami        Win

VS Oakland   Win

VS St. Louis     Win

@ Baltimore Loss

VS New England Win

VS Denver Loss

@ San Francisco Loss

@ Kansas City    Win

As for the rest of the season, it's hard to imagine this team not getting healthier for the stretch run. I don't have a legit reason for expecting the Chargers will beat Miami, just a hunch. The recent games in MIA have been close, and 32 years is a long time without a win.

Following the bye and some health, OAK and STL are must wins. BAL is a very tough place to get a win, and they're playing for their playoff lives as well.

The Chargers have always played NE tough at home, and I think they squeak out a win. I think DEN is just better this season; SF will be playing for their playoff lives. I think the Week 17 game at Arrowhead will have play-in stakes for both the Chargers and Chiefs.

Richard Wade (8-8)

at MIA - Loss

vs OAK - Win

vs STL - Win

at BAL - Loss

vs NE - Win

vs DEN - Loss

at SF - Loss

at KC - Loss

Using the same predictive system that accurately projected 5-3 through the first 8 weeks (granted while getting the Buffalo and Kansas City games wrong), we get a projected 3-5 finish. Of the five losses, the Dolphins and 49ers games represent the best opportunities to win. And when looking at the three wins, the Patriots game is the most dangerous. Here's hoping the more optimistic staff predictions are more accurate than mine because 8-8 won't be enough to make the postseason.