NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT
Win and in -- if it were only that easy for the San Diego Chargers.
Instead, their only guarantee for reaching the playoffs is to beat the Kansas City Chiefs and keep their fingers crossed that the Miami Dolphins lose to the visiting New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens go down against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"It's not as good as the teams like Dallas or Chicago if they win out, they're in," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "But to have chance considering where we were a couple of weeks ago, if you said, 'Hey, week 17 you're going to have a chance to make it.' I don't know that we could've asked for much else based on what we did in the previously part of the season."
The Chargers had a slow start and were left for dead before reeling off this three-game winning streak. There are losses on their resumes to the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins which still sting. They also feel to others that has them in the ditch they reside.
"We dug ourselves in this hole, put ourselves in this situation, conference record, and loss some head-to-head games against teams that are good teams but we knew the significance of them, and we didn't get them down," Rivers said.
The Chargers already eclipsed last year's seven-win total from last year in coach Mike McCoy's rookie season. That is impressive in itself, but so is the personality this team has formed during the late-season rally.
"We just kept fighting," McCoy said. "That has been the story of our football team all year long. We just have to keep fighting and put ourselves in a position for the opportunity that lies ahead this weekend against a good Kansas City football team."
The Chargers will know their fate before kickoff with the Dolphins and Ravens kicking off in the earlier games.
The Chargers could be facing the Chiefs with everything on the line.
Or absolutely nothing.
The Chiefs don't, really, have anything at stake. They'll be the AFC's No. 5 seed before the game, and after it, regardless of the final score.
Not so with the Chargers.
"We have to worry about ourselves first and that is what we are going to do," McCoy said. "We are going to work extremely hard this week at practice and see what takes place this weekend."
It just long be, for the Chargers, a final regular-season weekend to remember.
SERIES HISTORY: 107th regular-season meeting. Chargers lead series, 53-52-1. The Chargers gave the Chiefs their first loss of the season at home when knocking them off in Arrowhead Stadium in November, 41-38. The Chargers have won four of the five last meetings and have defeated the Chiefs in their last five visits to San Diego. The teams have played but once in the playoffs, when the Chargers prevailed, 17-0, in a 1992 first-round game.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
-- Wide receiver Keenan Allen is looking to add to some very impressive rookie numbers. Allen, a third-round pick, leads all receivers with 66 catches, 957 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
-- Free safety Eric Weddle knows all about the different scenarios for the Chargers to reach the playoffs. But he's trying to put his thought process elsewhere.
"The more energy and time you spend on what other people are doing, your play will (be) hindered because of it. We've got to go out and play a good game."
-- Kicker Nick Novak converted all four field-goals (27, 48, 28, 33 yards) in the win over Oakland. His four field goals tied for the most in the NFL in Week 16 as he scored 14 of the Chargers' 26 points. Novak has converted 32 field goals, tied for the second-most in a season in franchise history; John Carney (34 in 1994) and Nate Kaeding (32 in 2009).
-- The Chargers are leading the NFL in 10-play drives (36) and 10-play drive points (140). That hasn't been overlooked by outside linebacker Jarret Johnson. "That's one thing that our offense has been really consistent at, which helps out a defense, is converting on third down and staying on the field and continuously having long drives," he said. "Just about every game they've had six- or seven-, eight-minute drives, and if you do that multiple times it's going to help out the defense a lot more, and lately we've been capitalizing, where as in past games we didn't."
BY THE NUMBERS: 102 - Number of team-high tackles by free safety Eric Weddle. It's his second-straight 100-tackle season and the third of his career.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "All I know is that our players are going to prepare just like they did last week to win the game. And there's TV's around, I'm not going to lie. There's TV's around in the locker room. I don't worry about that. We have enough leaders in here. We understand what's at stake, regardless of what happens in the games before us, we're going to win."" -- Chargers coach Mike McCoy on if the players will peek at the Miami and Baltimore games before taking on the Chiefs.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Chargers will continue with what has been a steady rotation at outside linebacker.
With Jarret Johnson back from an elbow injury and Melvin Ingram's return from a knee injury, the depth and production from this spot has been on an upswing.
But don't overlook the others that are making their marks while getting their chance, especially Thomas Keiser.
-- RB Ronnie Brown will continue to return kickoffs. Brown had but one return for 9 yards against the Chiefs.
-- CB Richard Marshall will continue to start in place of Derek Cox.
-- SS Marcus Gilchrist will slide down and become the slot defender in the nickel package.
-- SS Jahleel Addae, an undrafted rookie, is seeing time at safety when Gilchrist plays the slot.
-- TE Jake Byrne was signed off of the Chiefs' practice squad.
-- TE John Phillips was placed on injured-reserve after hurting his knee in Sunday's game.
-- TE Ladarius Green is looking to get back into the mix. He didn't have a reception on Sunday, while being targeted but once.
-- RB Ryan Mathews (ankle)didn't work but indications are it isn't serious.
-- WR Eddie Royal (toe) didn't practice expected to play on Sunday.
--CB Shareece Wright (foot) didn't work but he should as the week progresses.
--RT Jeromey Clary (hand) was limited but will start on Sunday.
--LB Thomas Keiser (elbow) was a full participant Wednesday.
--DT Sean Lissemore (shoulder) was a full participant Wednesday.
The Chiefs have a sturdy defense, we know that. But there is a bit of weak spot in their run defense, and running the ball of late, is what the Chargers have been doing best.
As long as running back Ryan Mathews' ankle is up to the task, the Chargers figure to attack the Chiefs in that manner. Mathews is having a career year, and it's proven with a career-high 1,111 yards this season.
With the front line as healthy as it has been all season, the Chargers could lean on the running game to limit turnovers and keep Philip Rivers upright as well.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Chargers pass protection, which has been solid all season vs. Chiefs pass rush which features LB Tamba Hali.
The Chargers survived Hali, and teammate Juston Houston, in the earlier matchup. But they got a break when both left the game early with injuries. Hali is back; Houston remains down. The Chargers' pass protection is among the big reasons quarterback Philip rivers is having such a good season. But Hali figures to want to get a piece of him after being stymied last month.
Although it will be interesting to see how much Chiefs coach Andy Reid lets Hali play. Just last week the Broncos lost one of their top pass-rushers, Von Miller, to an injury for the playoffs. Reid obviously took note and might limit Hali's field time. Also keep an eye on the tight ends blocking and chipping in helping out the front line. The Chargers lost their best blocking tight end when John Phillips wrecked his knee on Sunday.
--Chargers front seven vs. Chiefs offense which revolves around RB Jamaal Charles.
The Chargers knew all about what Charles can do as the film they studying last week on the Raiders had one highlight after another in it of Charles scoring five touchdowns. The front seven has played well of late, with Sean Lissemore replacing Cam Thomas as the starting tackle and the improved play of rookie inside linebacker Manti Te'o.
James accounts for nearly 80 percent of the team's handoffs and we know what he can do when catching a short pass. So it's imperative for the team's front seven to maintain an outside edge and try and force him inside to the linebackers.