Can SD Make a Playoff Push?

The Chargers enter the bye week with a surprising 4-3 record, not bad for a team that opened the season ranked No. 27 by the Associated Press. Will this surprising journey lead to an even more surprising destination -- the playoffs? We look at the schedule ahead and break down the possibilities.

When examining the nine remaining games on San Diego's schedule, it's easiest to break things up into two segments. The first segment includes the next four games: three road contests and a home game against the Broncos. The second segment features the final five games: four tilts at the friendly confines of Qualcomm Stadium and one roadie against those same Broncos.

In Segment I, the Bolts have to win at least two of those four games (at Washington, vs. Denver, at Miami and at Kansas City). The most winnable games appear to be against the Redskins (2-4, both wins coming against backup QBs) and the Dolphins (losers of three straight). However, the Chargers will have to pick up wins over the Broncos and/or Chiefs at some point if they hope to make the playoffs -- over half of San Diego's remaining games are in the AFC West.

If San Diego goes 3-1 in Segment I, the Chargers will be 7-4 and serious playoff contenders. If the Bolts go 2-2, they will be 6-5 and still alive in the race. Anything worse than that and it is time to start thinking about draft positioning.

Segment II features more difficult opponents but comes with the benefit of being home-heavy (vs. Bengals, vs. Giants, at Broncos, vs. Raiders, vs. Chiefs). The Bolts must go either 3-2 or 4-1 in this stretch, depending on how they perform in Segment I. San Diego needs six more wins in total to get to 10-6 and earn a likely playoff berth.

There is a chance 9-7 could get it done, but that is unlikely; the Chargers won't get much tiebreaker help because all three of their losses are inside the conference.

Segment II features three games against likely playoff teams: Cincinnati, Denver and Kansas City. But, as alluded to above, if the Chargers cannot at least split with the Chiefs and Broncos, any playoff talk is fruitless.

Playoff Scenario Our Projection
at Washington: Win at Washington: Win
vs. Denver: Loss vs. Denver: Loss
at Miami: Win at Miami: Win
at Kansas City: Loss at Kansas City: Loss
vs. Cincinnati: Win vs. Cincinnati: Loss
vs. Giants: Win vs. Giants: Win
at Denver: Loss at Denver: Loss
vs. Oakland: Win vs. Oakland: Win
vs. Kansas City: Win vs. Kansas City: Loss
Final Record: 10-6 Final Record: 8-8

Can the Chargers earn a spot in the playoffs? Discuss inside 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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