Playoff outlook: Where do the Chargers stand after Week 11

The San Diego Chargers kept their playoff hopes alive with a win against the first-place Texans. What are their chances going forward after the victory in Houston? Let’s take a look.

First things first: The Chargers played a solid game overall, handing the Texans their first home loss of the season. That’s big, and they needed that game. Heck, they will likely need to win every game if they want to make the postseason–and even that might not be enough.

Going into the game, both quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Melvin Gordon ranked No. 4 overall in their respective categories–and they stayed that way following the win. Also, the offense was No. 2 in scoring going in, and they were facing a defense that ranked No. 5 overall (including the third-best passing defense).

Rivers and his teammates dominated them through the air (242 yards passing and three touchdown receptions), and Gordon had a solid 4.1 yards per carry as the Chargers won, 21-13. Rivers even passed another milestone, making it the 11th consecutive year with at least 3,000 passing yards, tied for fourth-most in NFL history.

On defense, the Chargers continued their streak of 17 consecutive games with a turnover, which is the longest active streak in the NFL, per ESPN Stats & Information. The Chargers picked off Brock Osweiler three times, a career-high for him, and they also finished with one sack, one forced fumble and four tackles for loss. Casey Hayward, a free-agent acquisition, leads the league in interceptions after nabbing his sixth pick of the year.

Their 2016 first-round pick, DE Joey Bosa, continues to be a one-man wrecking machine. Bosa has 4.5 sacks on the season, and he finished Sunday’s game with two quarterback hits and 11 total tackles, which was the most among the defensive line. Not only that, but the play where Bosa gave 150 percent and tackled Osweiler from behind to prevent a huge first down with less than five minutes left in the game was just downright incredible.

The effort and passion from one player can turn everything around–and it has in a way. The Chargers, who started the season 1-4, have won four of the last six games (Bosa debuted in Week 5).

That said, winning the division is pretty much out of the question, especially with the Raiders being 9-2 with five games left. Instead, let’s focus on the wild card. The Chargers (5-6) are two games out of the last AFC wild-card spot. As of now, the Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) and Miami Dolphins (7-4) hold the last two spots. The Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos in overtime, and the Dolphins won six in a row after surviving Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.

Denver’s loss brings them to 7-4, but Miami owns the tiebreaker due to the best win percentage in conference games. Other teams ahead of the Chargers are the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5), Buffalo Bills (6-5), Tennessee Titans (6-6) and Indianapolis Colts (5-6). The Steelers a.k.a. Antonio Brown dominated the Colts on Thanksgiving, and the Bills and Titans held on to win their respective games.

The Steelers and Ravens will battle it out for the NFC North title, and quite frankly, I don’t think the second-place team makes the playoffs. Realistically, only one team from the AFC South will be in the postseason. The Broncos and Dolphins are threats, but they have tough schedules. The Broncos play the Titans, Patriots, Chiefs and Raiders (three losses is doable). The Dolphins play the Ravens, Cardinals, Bills and Patriots (it’s great that they play the Ravens and Bills, for it is a win-win for whoever loses). The Chiefs are standing tall at 6-2 against AFC opponents, but their remaining schedule isn’t soft either (and four of the five are against the AFC, with the lone NFC game against the first-place Atlanta Falcons).

Meanwhile, the Raiders play the Bills, Chiefs, Colts and Broncos. Don’t throw eggs at me, but it’s best that we root for Oakland in all four of those games, as it will greatly help the Chargers.

The Chargers, who are 4-5 in their conference, play the Buccaneers, Panthers, Raiders, Browns and Chiefs in their final five games. The Bolts have been in every game (even leading in each game), so if they continue to win and certain teams fade by season’s end, the Chiefs-Chargers game in Week 17 could be for a playoff spot. There’s always a chance–right, Lloyd Christmas?

Overall, it’s going to be hard to make the postseason. NFL insider Mike Sando believes the Chargers will miss out, finishing the year at 7-9 (which includes the remainder of the AFC West finishing with at least 11 wins a piece). We talked about the good for the Chargers, but we didn’t mention that they’ve turned the ball over 23 times, which is the most in the league. Injuries are still a big problem, too. Also, having Mike McCoy as head coach doesn’t warrant much confidence.

Still, if the Chargers can close out games and get some luck on their side, then maybe San Diego can find itself a team to root for come January.

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