NFL players and coaches love talking about the importance of games with the division. Usually, they’re right. Get a win, hand a loss to a division rival at the same time. It’s the ultimate swing in the standings.
The 2013 Chargers can forget about that old axiom. They’re not going to catch the Chiefs or Broncos. For all intents and purposes, the Bolts are no longer in the AFC West.
The Chargers new division is called “AFC Wild Card No. 2.” It’s the only playoff spot that remains within the team’s reach, making everything else irrelevant in 2013. And the Chargers have only one game left against a division opponent, a team also in the running for the same Wild Card slot. That makes Sunday’s matchup against the Miami Dolphins the game of the season for the Bolts.
Lose on Sunday, and the Chargers would be staring up at multiple teams, have head-to-head losses to both the Dolphins and Titans, and would own a miserable 2-5 record in the AFC, making their tiebreaker scenarios bleak at best. Lose on Sunday, and the Chargers would likely need to go 6-0 the rest of the way to make the playoffs (and even that might not be enough). 5-1 would get them to 9-7, but they’d need a massive amount of help to avoid an unfavorable tiebreaker. Lose on Sunday, and 2014 likely becomes the new playoff target for the Bolts.
Win on Sunday, and the Chargers are back to 5-5. The Dolphins would be 4-6, and on the wrong side of a tiebreaker with the Bolts. Win on Sunday, and the Bolts remain a legitimate Wild Card contender in the AFC. Win on Sunday, and get a little help, and the Chargers could once again occupy the No. 6 slot in the conference (the Jets, Ravens, and Browns would all need to lose for that to happen).
Sure, games against the Chiefs, Broncos, and Raiders remain important…but the game of the season? That’s taking place in Miami on Sunday.