Will Tough Docket Doom the Bolts?

The task for the Chargers is clear: San Diego has five weeks to gain one game on Denver. If the Bolts can do that, they'll earn the right to play for the AFC West title in Week 17. SDBoltReport.com examines the remaining schedules of the Broncos and Chargers to determine what will happen down the stretch.

How do you think the Chargers and Broncos will fare over the next five games? Click here to let your voice be heard in the message boards.

The Chargers have five weeks to gain one game in the AFC West. It sounds doable, but the schedule tells a different story. The Broncos play three of their next five games at Invesco Field and their remaining opponents have a combined 26-33 record.

The Chargers prepare to embark on a three-game homestand and will likely have to sweep the trifecta to stay in the race. Here's a forecast of what's to come.

Denver's Projected Finish

Week 12: Win over Oakland Raiders- The Raiders (2-8) are a team in disarray, having lost seven of their last eight games. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has dominated the Raiders throughout his career, a trend that should continue this week.

Week 13: Loss at New York Jets- The Jets (7-3) may be the toughest team left on Denver's schedule. Brett Favre should move the ball with ease against the league's fourth-worst pass defense, giving Chargers fans reason to expect a Denver loss.

Week 14: Win over Kansas City Chiefs- The Chiefs (1-9) already topped the Broncos once this season, so it may be too much to ask for lightning to strike twice. Kansas City already did San Diego a solid earlier this season by handing the Broncos a key divisional loss, which could make all the difference come tiebreaker time.

Week 15: Loss at Carolina Panthers- The Panthers (8-2) are not as good as their record, but they're playing well enough to buck the Broncos. The running back combo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart should help the Panthers control the ball and keep Jay Cutler & Co. off the field.

Week 16: Win over Buffalo Bills- The Bills (5-5) are the toughest home opponent left on Denver's docket. However, the Bills have lost four in a row since their win over the Chargers and are quickly falling out of the race in the AFC East. Look for the Broncos to take this game in a high-scoring affair.

Denver's Projected Record Heading into Week 17: 9-6

San Diego's Projected Finish

Week 12: Win over Indianapolis Colts- The Colts (6-4) carry a three-game winning streak into San Diego, where they'll be looking to avenge last season's Divisional Round playoff loss to the Chargers. However, San Diego matches up very well against Indianapolis, winning the last three meetings. Look for the Bolts to continue that trend now that Ron Rivera has found a pass rush.

Week 13: Win over Atlanta Falcons- The Falcons (6-4), while much improved, are still a work in progress. QB Matt Ryan should have an efficient outing, and RB Michael Turner will be plenty motivated against his old team, but Atlanta's pass defense (No. 22) is no match for Philip Rivers and his NFL-high 21 TD passes.

Week 14: Win over Oakland Raiders- The Raiders (2-8), as mentioned above, have become the punch-line of the NFL. San Diego has won 10 straight in this series; there's no way that streak ends if the Chargers still have anything to play for.

Week 15: Win at Kansas City Chiefs- The Chiefs (1-9) always play the Chargers tough and this game will be no exception. In fact, if the Chargers lose any of their three home games prior to this matchup, I think Kansas City can pull the upset here. However, if the Chargers handle their business and make this game meaningful, LaDainian Tomlinson & Co. will gut out a tough win.

Week 16: Loss at Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Of the five games left on San Diego's schedule, this is the one the Bolts are most likely to lose. Tampa Bay's efficient passing attack and stingy secondary make the Bucs a nightmare matchup.

San Diego's Projected Record Heading into Week 17: 8-7

How do you think the Chargers and Broncos will fare over the next five games? Click here to let your voice be heard in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com 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.

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