By Dave Thomas
Although there are still nine games to be played on the schedule for the San Diego Chargers, it is never too early to start checking out the AFC race. In doing so, the Bolts have a better idea of the teams they need to leapfrog in order to gain a playoff spot come January.
With San Diego taking off until Monday thanks to a bye week, the Chargers were in a position Sunday to do some scoreboard watching, especially regarding the AFC West. As day turned to night, the Chargers unfortunately did not get any positive news, as all three division rivals posted victories.
Chiefs Keep Winning
If you told anyone at the start of the season that the Kansas City Chiefs would be 8-0 at the halfway point, most would have either laughed at you or suggested a mental evaluation. On Sunday, Kansas City did just enough to hold off the Cleveland Browns by a 23-17 score at Arrowhead Stadium, allowing the home team to remain unbeaten.
Meanwhile, the rival Denver Broncos put 45 points up on the Washington Redskins in a 45-21 win in the Mile High City Sunday (San Diego’s next opponent on November 3), scoring a sweep of the NFC East this season (also defeated New York, Philadelphia and Dallas). The Broncos travel to San Diego on November 10 for the first of two meetings with the Chargers.
Lastly, the hated Oakland Raiders held off a late Pittsburgh Steelers charge at home to post a 21-18 victory over the Steelers. With the victory, Oakland climbed within a game of San Diego for third place in the AFC West at 3-4.
Onward to Washington
As October turns to November, where does this leave the Chargers going forward with nine contests remaining in the regular season?
For starters, all eyes are on another trip back East, as the Bolts meet Robert Griffin III and the Redskins this coming Sunday.
Although Washington has given up a whopping 86 points in its last two games (41 in a win over Chicago before Sunday’s loss to Denver), the Redskins have proven that they can certainly put points on the scoreboard. The Chargers, who held Jacksonville to a pair of field goals in their most recent trip back east (24-6 victory on October 20), will undoubtedly get a much stiffer contest from RGIII and Co.
While the majority of the Chargers will tell you that their only focus is on Washington and beating the Redskins on Sunday, there is undoubtedly a twinge of excitement about entertaining Peyton Manning and the Broncos the following weekend, especially after San Diego coughed up a huge lead at home against Denver on a Monday night a season ago and lost in front of a nationwide audience.
After the first of two with the Broncos, San Diego finishes out the month with tough road tests at Miami and Kansas City.
If the AFC playoffs were kicking off now instead of early January, the Chargers would actually find themselves leading the wild card race at 4-3.
As of this past Sunday’s play, the next closest teams in the AFC race are the Jets (4-4), with Tennessee, Baltimore, Miami and Oakland all sitting at 3-4.
Who said it is too early to scoreboard watch in late October?
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.