Chiefs Game Vital to Playoff Push

The San Diego Chargers are six games away from winning their fifth AFC West title in the last six years. And while the remaining docket includes many big games -- including a Dec. 20 showdown with the 7-3 Cincinnati Bengals – no game will affect San Diego's playoff chances more than Sunday's clash with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Sunday's home game against Kansas City could go a long way towards wrapping up the division for the Chargers. The Chiefs are the last division foe on San Diego's schedule; with a win, the Chargers would improve to 5-1 in the AFC West.

That's key, because the other team fighting for first place, the 6-4 Denver Broncos, already has one division loss. That came last week when the Chargers invaded Mile High and left with a 32-3 victory.

"They are a good team," said Steve Gregory of the Broncos. "They've hit a rough patch here lately, but they came out and played hard, but we got the best of them."

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Jaime Squire/Getty
Since the Chargers and Broncos split their season series, the next relevant tiebreaker is division record. That is why a win over the Chiefs on Sunday would do two big things: 1) it would assure Denver could only match, not top, San Diego's division record; and 2) it would put pressure on the Broncos to win all three of their remaining division games.

A month ago, it seemed a given that Denver would win both of its games against the Chiefs and its remaining game with the Oakland Raiders. But just last week, Denver dropped its fourth consecutive game; the Chiefs beat the Pittsburgh Steelers; and the Raiders topped the division-leading Bengals.

"A team coming off two big wins like Kansas City is, I think helps our guys," Norv Turner said. "The most important thing for them is to put the film on and when we watch our first game, there are some physical matchups and there are some plays that we made because we were in the right place at the right time."

Now, the pressure is squarely on the Broncos, especially if the Chargers beat the Chiefs on Sunday. If that happens -- and if Denver loses any of its three remaining divisional games -- San Diego will all but lock up the division crown and the home playoff game that comes with it.

But if the Chargers lose to Kansas City, it opens the door for the Broncos to not only get back into the division race, but to reclaim the tiebreaker as well.

"It feels great [to lead the division]," Malcom Floyd said, "but Kansas City just beat Pittsburgh, so we have to get ready for them."

What are fans saying about Sunday's game? Find out inside the message boards.

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. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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