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Welcome to January football, Chargers fans

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Then there were 12.

The Los Angeles Chargers ended their historic season on a strong note as Philip Rivers, and the Bolts offense delivered another quality performance defeating the Denver Broncos, 23-9. While Los Angeles had clinched a postseason berth two weeks ago over the Kansas City Chiefs, the franchise still had something to play for.

While perhaps a long shot since their AFC West rival was playing one of the worst teams in football, Los Angeles needed a win and a Kansas City loss to clinch not just a first-round bye, but also home field advantage throughout the playoffs. On paper, it seemed the Chargers were deserving of that honor following a fantastic season.

Rivers delivered a mixed outing after going 14-of-24 for 176 yards and a pair of interceptions. He did, however, connect with Mike Williams in the red zone for a three-yard score in the second quarter.

Melvin Gordon might have led the team in carries, but Austin Ekeler was the true story. Rushing for 58 yards and touchdown, the second-year runner proved his worth as a ball carrier instead of being an offensive weapon in the passing game.

But the defense, man the defense looked the part.

Allowing just 370 total yards of offense, Gus Bradley’s unit looked in-sync moving towards the postseason. Adrian Philip led the way with 12 tackles while Kyle Emmanuel finally added something to the mix with a 19-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

A well-fought game ended in Los Angeles’ favor as the team picked up their 12th win on the season and finished the year on a positive note. Slight problem, though, so did Kansas City.

Los Angeles might have the second best record in the AFC, but they’ll be the underdog for January football. Not in the sense of the spread, but always on the wrong side of the fan base. Unless the team has a date with the Indianapolis Colts or Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship, StubHub Stadium can keep their lights off for the remainder of the playoffs.

But the Chargers are not an underdog moving forward. While their first matchup against the Baltimore Ravens will be challenging thanks to the Ravens stellar defense, their journey to Atlanta might become simple with a wild-card round victory. A win over Baltimore and a Houston Texans victory would send the Bolts to a familiar location; Arrowhead Stadium.

The last time Los Angeles and Kansas City met, Rivers threw for 313 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Chiefs abysmal secondary. The defense held wonder boy Patrick Mahomes to season-low 243 yards and forced Damien Williams to lead the offense on the ground game. Los Angeles needed a two-point conversion but found a way to pick up a 29-28 victory.

That’s all several weeks away, and plenty can happen along the way.

But the Chargers are ready for the postseason. In year’s past, the Bolts have been known for letting the fan base down. Whether starting the year off sluggish or finishing the year off on our sour note, the days of Chargers chaos are coming to a close. Rivers is playing like a 25-year-old version of himself and players are becoming healthy at the right moment.

But hey, one game at a time, right?

Los Angeles went through the gauntlet and came out on the other side a little brighter. While a single play could change the outlook of any game, Los Angeles well-balanced offense along with strong defensive secondary carried the Bolts past opponents such as Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Kansas City.

As the regular season comes to a close, the football Gods have given the Bolts a gift: a chance at redemption against the Ravens. While Baltimore looks ready to take on whoever comes through M&T Stadium, Los Angeles has a battle-tested quarterback who has been here before.

Plain and simple; if Los Angeles can attack Lamar Jackson, limit the number of short passes and establish a run game, it will be must-watch television for everyone to enjoy.

Anything can happen in the postseason. A team that barely made it in could find their way in the championship game. A number 1 seed could be knocked out after getting a week to rest. Anything is possible.

No matter what happens next, the Chargers can hold their head high for the first time since 2013. The team known for letting the fan base down is now the one holding their own in a new city. Even on the road, Los Angeles might be the team to beat. They don’t need a fan base cheering them on; they have each other to hold accountable.

There’s just one thing left to say; welcome to January football.