No Help for the Needy

The San Diego Chargers were able to sit back and watch on Sunday; they did not like what they saw. The Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens all picked up big wins, delivering a serious blow to San Diego's playoff hopes.

The Chargers hoped their Thursday victory would put some pressure on the teams in front of them in the AFC standings. Instead, it simply provided extra motivation.

The team the Chargers most want to lose is the Chiefs. One KC loss and San Diego controls its path to a fifth consecutive AFC West crown. However, the Chiefs won in Week 15 versus the St. Louis Rams, 27-13. This was the toughest opponent left on Kansas City's schedule, not to mention the Chiefs' final road game.

If the Chiefs win their final two games (Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders), they win the AFC West. The Titans won Sunday against the Houston Texans, 31-17, snapping a six-game losing streak that started against the Chargers on Halloween. Asking them to win in Kansas City, where the Chiefs are undefeated, is a tall order.

CB Antonio Cromartie
Jared Wickerham/Getty
The Raiders now represent Kansas City's most likely stumbling block. Oakland won in Week 15 vs. the Denver Broncos, 39-23, to improve to 5-0 inside the AFC West. They will go for the division sweep in the season finale. However, the Raiders already have seven losses and will likely be out of the playoff race by the time that game kicks off, meaning the Chiefs will have a serious edge in terms of motivation.

The Chargers could still sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard, but those hopes took a serious blow with wins by the Jets and Ravens. With the Jets beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 22-17, and the Ravens topping the New Orleans Saints, 30-24, those teams would have to lose out to open the door for the Chargers.

New York finishes with a road game against the Chicago Bears and at home vs. the Buffalo Bills. Baltimore closes its season away against the Cleveland Browns and home vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. Simply put: There is no way the Jets or Ravens lose out.

There is a chance the Ravens could overtake the Steelers in the AFC North, leaving San Diego to jockey with Pittsburgh in the wildcard race. But the Steelers would take that tiebreaker based on their record against common opponents.

The only thing working in San Diego's favor is Roger Goodell's decision to backload the schedule with divisional games. The purpose of this decision was to prevent teams from lying down in the waning weeks of the season. Hopefully, the Raiders take this initiative to heart and show up to ready play in Week 17.

This is what it's come to for San Diego -- rooting for the NFL's dirtiest team (the Titans) and its most hated rival (the Raiders) to lift the Chargers into the playoffs.

Chargers fans should not hold out hope for another postseason appearance. Instead, they should hope their team finally learns its lesson -- if you don't start your season in September, you have no business planning for January.

Can the Chargers sneak into the postseason? Talk about it in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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