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Chargers Fighting for Last Playoff Spot as Stars Need to Align

It’s Week 17 and for the San Diego Chargers (8-7), they’re still seeking a playoff spot. There’s a number of scenarios to get them there and it all begins with a win over the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4).

But buckle your seat belts, as it’s going to be a busy Sunday of NFL games as teams battle for the one remaining AFC wild card spot.

Phillip Rivers

Phillip Rivers

The Chargers will go up against the Miami Dolphins (8-7), the Baltimore Ravens (8-7) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8). The Dolphins can grab the spot (the No. 6 seed) if they defeat the New York Jets (7-8) and the Chargers get a win or the Ravens lose.

Now if the Dolphins lose, they’re done but if the Ravens defeat the Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) and the Dolphins or Chargers lose (or get a tie), then Baltimore is going to the playoffs. For the Chargers, they can make it the playoffs with a win and Ravens and Dolphins losses (or tie).

But if all three of these teams lose and the Steelers defeat the Cleveland Browns (4-11), Pittsburgh grabs the No. 6 seed.

Should everyone lose, the Ravens will get the playoff spot.

Vegas sees the following:

  • Bengals get the win over the Ravens (-7, 43.5 o/u).
  • Miami gets the win over the Jets (-6.5, 41.5 o/u).
  • Pittsburgh gets the win over the Browns (-7, 44 o/u).

Both Miami and Baltimore will play in the early game and by the time the Chargers play, they could already know their fate.

Also lucky for them, the Chiefs are already in the playoffs as the No. 5 seed and with a win or loss, nothing will change their scenario. Chiefs coach Andy Reid has been toying on whether or not to play his starters or rest them.

He said this week via ESPN, “If you look at the history of it, it’s about a 50-50 shot over the last three or four years of people who have done it. It’s what you’re most comfortable with as a coach.The obvious benefit is you rest your guys. You kind of get back a little fresher than what they were at the end of the season. You take a risk of the timing part of it. So those are the things that you have to evaluate.

“… This is one of those decisions you make, it’s a bit of a gut feeling you go with.”

The Chargers will hope that Reid rests running back Jamaal Charles, who is the league’s leader with his 19 total touchdowns; in the last five games, he has scored 11 of them as well as gained 794 yards from scrimmage. His average has been 132.0 yards for 2013, which gives him a No. 2 NFL ranking.

Ryan Mathews

Ryan Mathews

Meanwhile, San Diego has its own talented running back Ryan Mathews, who is expected to play after missing practice this week with a bum left ankle.  This season, Mathews has rushed for a career-high 1,111 yards. In this last three weeks, this has included 329 yards and since Week 13, he’s led the league with 97 carries.

According to STATSLLC, in 2013 the Chargers are 5-0 when he has at least 20 carries and 5-1 when he scores a running touchdown as compared to 3-6 when he does not.

And on a final plus for the Chargers, quarterback Phillip Rivers has been playing well. In the team’s first meeting against the Chiefs (a 41-38 Chargers win), Rivers passed for 392 yards and three scores.

In their last three matchups (all Chargers’ wins), Rivers has a 126.1 passer rating and has helped San Diego take the last 10 of 12 wins in this series (includes five straight home wins by a 16.4 point average).

For this all-important game, Vegas says -500 no/+300 yes for the Chargers to make the playoffs even with a win against the Chiefs (-9.5, 44.5 o/u).

As for other NFC West action, the Denver Broncos (12-3) will play the Oakland Raiders (4-11) and get another win (-10, 53 o/u).


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