What does it all mean?

There could be three teams with 10 wins who do not make the playoffs – equaling the entire total of such teams since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff system in 1990 (Philadelphia and San Francisco in 1991; Miami in 2003) with the Chargers potentially being one of those teams.

"We have an opportunity this week to do something that hasn't been done around here in a long, long time," said head coach Marty Schottenheimer of posting ten-win seasons in consecutive campaigns.

You have to reach back to 1979-80 to find a Chargers team that posted more victories than the 22 they can amass with a victory on Sunday.

And it boils down to this small victory in a season of missed expectations.

There are no playoffs to look forward to. The only thing they get with a win is a lower draft pick, right?

Not if you ask around. The Chargers pride has already been stung by the prospect of them missing the playoffs. They fear more blows to their ego.

That has made this game a must-win.

"We have a chance to have double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons," said rookie linebacker Shawne Merriman. "That gives us inspiration and something to strive off next year."

"The opportunity to do something that hasn't been done here in 25 seasons," quarterback Drew Brees said.

But the truth isn't related to the tenth win necessarily. The double-digits are nice but mean nothing in the end. It is the lingering effects that a win will do.

While the team is disappointed about not meeting their playoff objectives, a win would last through the tough times when they are watching other teams compete for the Super Bowl.

"Going into the off-season on a high note," Brees admitted.

"The outcome of this game is going to stay with us for a length of time," added Schottenheimer.

When next year rolls around, the team will be able to look back at this season and know they went 8-2 down the stretch. It will be a building block and remind them that a fast start is pivotal in the ranks of the NFL.

Burdened by a 3-4 start, they were never able to fully recover, despite putting a solid foot to the forefront.

Schottenheimer has a motto he likes to retort before practices and games, "Start fast; finish strong." It might be time to put that on all the exit doors at Qualcomm next year to remind them of what could have been in 2005.

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