Just Karma, Baby!

The San Diego Chargers spent the better part of the season wondering if ref Ed Hochuli's blown call in Week 2 would cost them a chance at their third consecutive AFC West title. Fourteen weeks later, we finally have an answer: no. The Chargers control their own playoff future and will play the Denver Broncos for the division title in Week 17.

It's not quite a Christmas miracle, but it is pretty close.

The Chargers kicked off their Sunday by routing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 41-24. It was the most impressive victory of the season for the Chargers, who started strong and finished even stronger.

As the Bolts walked off the field at Raymond James Stadium, only one question lingered: Was this impressive win all for nothing?

The Chargers wouldn't get their answer until approximately three hours later, when Jay Cutler missed Brandon Stokley in the back of the end zone and the Buffalo Bills cemented a stunning 30-23 upset at Invesco Field.

LB Stephen Cooper
Al Messerschmidt/Getty

Now comes the fun part, the long-awaited do-over of the wild showdown from Week 2.

That game is infamous by now. The Chargers trailed, 21-3, only to stage a huge second-half comeback and take a 38-31 lead on a 66-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Darren Sproles. However, the Broncos rallied back and -- aided by Hochuli's botched call on a Cutler fumble -- scored a touchdown and the go-ahead two-point conversion to win the game, 39-38.

The rematch could be just as wild, fueled by one of the best quarterback rivalries in the NFL. Cutler has been sensational this season, earning his first Pro Bowl invite and shattering his career-high with more than 4,200 yards passing.

Rivers has been equally brilliant, setting a new franchise record with 32 TD passes and leading the NFL with a 104.0 passer rating. He also has a history of success against the Broncos; in five career starts against Denver, Rivers has completed 85-of-125 passes (68 percent) for 1,337 yards, 10 touchdowns and three picks.

The NFL recognizes the sex appeal of the matchup, flexing the Chargers-Broncos game to its primetime slot on Sunday Night Football. That, more than anything else, shows how quickly things can change in the NFL.

Just a couple weeks ago, the NFL used its flex schedule to bump this week's Chargers game out of its originally scheduled primetime slot, fearful the Chargers would be eliminated from the postseason by now.

A short time later, the Chargers are being called up to primetime as they are one victory away from securing their third consecutive AFC West title.

The Chargers are 3-1 in primetime this season, including 19-point win over the New York Jets and a 20-point win over the New England Patriots. With one more win under the lights, the Bolts will earn a spot in an even grander venue -- the playoffs.

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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