Broncos Bury SD's Playoff Chances

The Denver Broncos topped the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, 24-17, reducing their magic number to one in the AFC West. The San Diego Chargers must sweep their two-game road trip, while hoping the Broncos lose their next two, in order for the season finale to carry any significance.

The Chargers face nearly impossible odds in their quest to return to the playoffs for a third straight season. However, the axe may not fall this week.

San Diego will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs (2-11), losers of eight of their last nine games. Denver heads to Carolina to face the Panthers, who are undefeated at home heading into Monday night's matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"We're going to take care of ourselves," Coach Norv Turner said. "We've got Kansas City next week and we've got a little time to get rested. That's the one thing about playing on Thursday night -- it's hard to get ready for it, but when it's over you do get a little bit of time."

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Jamie Squire/Getty

The Chargers will be favored over the Chiefs, just as the Panthers will be favored over the Broncos. If both of those games play out as expected, the Chargers will head into Week 16 with their playoff hopes intact.

After that, however, things get sticky.

In the second-to-last week of the season, the Chargers are on the road against the Buccaneers, who sit atop the NFC South heading into Monday night's matchup with the Panthers. Meanwhile, the Broncos will host the slumping Buffalo Bills, who have lost six of their last seven games.

Despite the long odds, the Chargers will approach this week's game with a strong sense of urgency.

"We have to put together another good game plan and go win another game," LaDainian Tomlinson said.

If the Week 17 showdown against the Broncos proves meaningless, it won't be unfamiliar territory for QB Philip Rivers.

Rivers received his first extended action as a professional in the 2005 season finale, when the Chargers hosted the division-champion Broncos. Drew Brees went down with a shoulder injury in the second quarter and Rivers stepped in and completed 12-of-22 passes for 115 yards and an interception in a 23-7 loss.

"Regardless of what happens with Denver, which we can't control, we're going to keep playing hard," Rivers said. "We're going to play with the same intensity and the same passion regardless."

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and 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 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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