With their AFC playoff lives on the line, the San Diego Chargers blew a golden opportunity last Sunday to increase their chances of breaking a three-year playoff drought.
In losing at home to Cincinnati (17-10), San Diego fell to 5-7 on the season, though only leaving it one game out (Baltimore is the front runner at 6-6) for an AFC wild card spot.
So, can the Chargers make up enough ground between now and the end of the month to secure an AFC seed, allowing the team to reach the post-season in its first year under new head coach Mike McCoy?
If you look at San Diego's schedule, there are certainly no easy games remaining. Here's a breakdown of the final four:
Dec. 8 - New York Giants (H) - Eli Manning and the Giants come to San Diego on a roll this weekend, having won five of their last six games. You know that Manning has a little extra incentive to beat the franchise that he spurned back in the 2004 NFL Draft. While the Giants are certainly beatable, San Diego will need to improve on its paltry 91 yards net rushing last weekend versus the Bengals to have a shot at sending New York across country a loser;
Dec. 12 - Denver (A) - Nothing like going from one Manning to another. In a Thursday night game in the Mile High City, the Chargers must tackle Peyton Manning and the AFC West leading Denver Broncos. Having lost to Denver 28-20 at home last month, the Chargers would love to put a hitch in Denver's playoff positioning (currently leads New England by a game for overall top spot in the AFC);
Dec. 22 - Oakland (H) - Losers to the Raiders back in September up in the Bay Area, the Chargers would love to defeat their arch-rivals. Much like the Bolts, you never quite know which Raider team will show up from weekend to weekend. If San Diego is still in the playoff hunt right before Christmas, this is a must-win game for sure (not that the others are not, but you can't lose to teams below you in the standings);
Dec. 29 - Kansas City (H) - San Diego wraps up its busy home December slate with a visit from the Chiefs. After winning its first nine games of the season, the Chiefs have proceeded to drop three straight (including a pair to Denver). This game could have implications for the Chiefs as far as playoff positioning. If that's the case, will the Chargers be in a spoiler role at that time?
With the playoffs less than a month away, do you think San Diego can sneak in as a wild card?