NFL

Chargers-Chiefs to decide AFC West

The Los Angeles Chargers won a thrilling game early this season at Kansas City. It looked then like the Chargers had a shot to disrupt the Chiefs’ streak of division titles. 

The Chargers still could win the division, but they have to win on Thursday night. Los Angeles has dropped some games and the Chiefs have gotten hot. Kansas City leads by one game in the AFC West, but the Chargers could still win the division, and it’s mostly due to that win earlier this season at Arrowhead Stadium. 

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Michael Wagstaffe)

The Chargers can sweep the season series and clinch the tiebreaker over Kansas City. The Chargers have an easier schedule over the final three games of the season and if the teams are even after Thursday, with Los Angeles holding the tiebreaker, they’d be the favorite to win the division. 

It won’t be easy for the Chargers to win. The Chiefs are playing much better on defense than the first time the teams met, and Kansas City exploded on offense last week in a 48-9 win over the Raiders. But there is a chance, and it turns Thursday night into what looks like an AFC West championship game. 

Here are the other big games in the playoff picture for Week 15: 

Patriots at Colts

The Colts are in pretty good shape for a wild-card spot, and a win over the Patriots would strengthen their hold on it. The Patriots are big favorites to win the AFC East. They also have a great path to the AFC’s No. 1 seed, though a loss to the Colts wouldn’t help that. 

Washington at Eagles

Washington and Philadelphia are both 6-7 and in the NFC wild-card mix. Gotta love playoff expansion. Both teams are mediocre at best, but the winner here stays in the race for the time being, while the loser falls to two games under .500 and will have a rough road to the playoffs. 

Steelers at Titans

The Steelers need this one more than the Titans, who are a virtual lock to win the AFC South. Tennessee is still chasing the No. 1 seed and that could look more promising if the Patriots lose on Saturday. The Steelers aren’t in great shape to get a wild-card spot, and a loss Sunday could be a death blow. 

Packers at Ravens 

These are two teams going in different directions. The Packers keep rolling and due to the Cardinals’ Week 14 loss, they’re the new No. 1 seed in the NFC. But they’re tied with the Buccaneers and Cardinals and any loss among that trio will be damaging. The Ravens lost last week, Lamar Jackson is hurt, and suddenly the Browns’ advantageous schedule makes it look like Cleveland could steal the division (though their COVID-19 situation could affect their outlook). 

Bengals at Broncos

The Broncos weren’t considered playoff contenders before the season, and the Bengals seemed like they might be a year away. Both are in playoff contention, but the hard part of the NFL is that Sunday could knock one way back and perhaps ultimately out of the race. It’s possible for both 7-6 teams to make it, but the road is going to be a lot harder for whoever loses Sunday. There are a lot of good teams battling for those three wild-card spots. It’s also possible neither team makes it (which we have projected at the moment, due to the Bengals’ difficult remaining schedule if they win).


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