Last Stand?

Norv Turner has received many opportunities in San Diego ... his final one may come on Sunday. The Chargers go to Denver to face a Broncos squad that has won four in a row, including a 24-point comeback in Week 6 in San Diego. A win puts the Chargers just one game back in the AFC West, while a loss all but hands the division to the Broncos.

From a mathematical standpoint, the Chargers are still in the mix. A win in Denver puts them back at .500 with six games to go. It will also make the Chargers 5-1 in the division and 5-2 in the conference, numbers that could help San Diego sneak into the playoffs at 9-7.

The problem is that San Diego's play of late has not given any indication this team is going to finish on a strong note, let alone make any noise in the playoffs.

Coach Norv Turner
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The problems are the same as they have been in recent seasons. The O-line struggles; Philip Rivers makes bad decisions under duress; the pass rush is spotty; and the special teams break down at the worst possible times.

Particularly concerning is the fact the team has been outscored 115-80 in the second halves of games. The Chargers have blown three second-half leads, none more embarrassing than the 24-0 lead they blew in front of a national audience versus the Broncos.

Sunday is the perfect -- and perhaps final -- chance for Norv Turner and his team to make something of this season. A win earns some redemption for that Week 6 debacle. It vaults the Chargers back into the race and gives the team its first victory over an opponent with a winning record.

A win could also help in the wildcard race, as the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) and Indianapolis Colts (6-3) both face difficult foes: the Baltimore Ravens (7-2) and New England Patriots (6-3), respectively.

If the Chargers lose, the Broncos open a three-game lead in the division and claim the tiebreaker, virtually eliminating San Diego in the AFC West race. At that point, the conversations become about the futures of Turner, GM A.J. Smith and, to a lesser extent, Rivers.

This team has an opportunity to put those conversations on hold, or perhaps retire them altogether with another late-reason run. But it has to start this Sunday. Anything else will be too little, too late.

How will Sunday's must-win game play out? Talk about it in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is 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 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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