By Dave Thomas
While the road to an AFC West Wild Card spot is far from certain, the San Diego Chargers may still very well have something to play for come Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chargers kept their playoff hopes alive this past Sunday with a 26-13 victory at home over the Oakland Raiders.
Meanwhile, both Miami and Baltimore lost, giving San Diego (8-7) better odds of having something to play for this final weekend of the season. That said, the Chargers could be eliminated before they take the field against Kansas City at home on Sunday, that is if either the Dolphins (vs. New York Jets) or Ravens (at Cincinnati) win.
For now, however, the focus is squarely on a season sweep of the rival Chiefs (San Diego won at Arrowhead Stadium Nov. 24 by a 41-38 score).
Chiefs Grab Wild Card Spot
Kansas City (11-4) saw its hopes of catching Denver for the AFC West title go down in flames with its loss at home Sunday to Indianapolis. Locked in as a the Wild Card now, Kansas City will look to avoid any major injuries when it meets the Chargers in a renewal of a series that dates back to the old AFL days.
A dreadful 2-14 just one season ago, the Chiefs cleaned house and brought in former Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid in the off-season. All Reid did was get Kansas City off to a 9-0 start (Chiefs have been 2-4 since that run, including a pair of losses to the Broncos).
Alex Smith has settled nicely into the quarterback position for the Chiefs, while running back Jamaal Charles is having an MVP-like season in the nation’s heartland.
To date, Smith has thrown for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns, while Charles has accounted for 1,287 yards rushing, 12 TD’s and 693 yards receiving, with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe adding 673 yards in catches to the mix.
Defensively, Kansas City turns to Derrick Johnson (107 total tackles), Tamba Hali and Justin Houston (both have 11 sacks) to lead the way.
In their first meeting this season in Kansas City, Philip Rivers and the Chargers rallied when the quarterback hit Seyi Ajirotutu on a 26-yard pass with 24 seconds remaining in the game for the win. For the day, Rivers threw for 392 yards and three touchdowns.
AFC Playoff Scenario Unfolds
As it stands now, the Chargers have to root for both the Jets and the Bengals to pull off victories in the early games this Sunday, meaning a win over the Chiefs would then give San Diego the final AFC playoff spot.
The Jets are playing out their final game of the season with no playoff hopes, while the Bengals are currently sitting in the number three seed (Indianapolis is also at 10-5, but seeded fourth if the playoffs started today).
To make matters even more interesting, the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) are still mathematically alive for the final AFC Wild Card spot.
All the Steelers need to do is beat the Cleveland Browns, along with having Miami (8-7), Baltimore (8-7) and San Diego all lose.
And you thought everything was already decided?
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.