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Chargers become Super Bowl Cinderella in the making

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The San Diego Chargers needed a lot of breaks to visit the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 5. Even after the Chargers got into the playoffs with four straight wins, a lot of wild card challengers losing and referee errors, they still had to visit a Bengals team that was perfect at home and starving for a playoff win. However, San Diego's blessed luck continued in the second half -- and will carry it back to Denver after it's 27-10 victory.

Thanks to a 20-0 advantage in the second half and three Andy Dalton turnovers, the Chargers became the second sixth seed to win on wild card weekend. Yet San Diego is hardly as powerful as the New Orleans Saints, although it may actually have a better shot at doing more damage.

The Chargers really started their unlikely run in Denver on Dec. 12, as they had their way with the Broncos in a way few others have this season. Now that San Diego knows it can win in Mile High, is playing with the hot hand, and faces a Denver team that will be reminded of last year's second round upset loss all week, another upset isn't out of the question.

It will happen if Peyton Manning lives up to his mixed playoff reputation. Yet for all his postseason struggles, Manning has nothing on Dalton, who lost his third straight playoff game in three attempts. Still, his two past defeats to the Houston Texans had nothing on this collapse, especially in the second half.

The Bengals won their division and were perfect in Cincinnati, and were up by 10-7 at halftime over the Chargers. Everything was set for Dalton and the Bengals to make their breakthrough, but they fell apart under the spotlight. As they have been all month, the Chargers were there to pick up the gifts that other teams left them.

Presumably, Manning and the Broncos won't make things as easy for the Chargers. San Diego will remain the biggest underdog of the divisional playoff weekend, and has still only made one AFC title game in Philip Rivers' career.

Nevertheless, if the Chargers are destined to be the latest unlikely Super Bowl contender, destiny is certainly making it easier for them -- almost as much as the Bengals did.



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