The Season Ahead

With realignment in the NFL this year, the four division champions and only two wild-card entries make the playoffs, and the Chargers currently stand third in the wild-card race behind Indianapolis and Miami. All three teams share an 8-5 record, but the Dolphins own the head-to-head advantage over the Chargers, while the Colts own a better mark against common opponents.

"Interestingly enough, though, the team that won the Super Bowl last year, what were they after 13 games? They were 8-5," said Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer. Remember that as we enter the final three weeks of the season.

"Well, we've got three weeks left to close hot," he said with a wry smile. "The glass is half full."

Two weeks ago they were about to play Denver and follow it up with Oakland. The thinking was if they could get through those games at 1-1 they would put themselves in a good position for a playoff berth.

"It's a three-game season," fullback Fred McCrary said. "It was a five-game season; we went 1-1. Now let's see what we can do these last three games."

Added rookie linebacker Ben Leber: "We still have a shot, we're still in the picture. We understand it's going to be a long road. But today we just talked about, 'Hey, we've been working for 16, 17 weeks already, what's three more weeks?"

Amazingly had they won this past weekend against Oakland they would be the pace setters. Now Oakland holds that distinction at 9-4.

If the season ended today, the Chargers would be on the outside looking in. That's what losing 4 of 6 will do to a team.

You can only control how you play and cannot worry about the competition. If you do your job and win games, it will work out.

"I think we all know that we can't afford another loss if we want to put ourselves in the right position to make the playoffs," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "I think the guys are well aware of that."

"I guess your ability to respond is how you measure yourself, and I think we've been able to do that well," quarterback Drew Brees said. "And this is going to be another one of those deals, going to Buffalo."

Buffalo and Drew Bledsoe in particular cannot be happy after losing to New England for the second time this year. The battle has just begun and the Bills now look to throw a wrench in the playoff mess that is the AFC.

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