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There is no bigger storyline in this game than the playoff implications that surround it. You can talk about how both teams are hated AFC West rivals, you can talk about the recent history of the Chargers-Broncos rivalry since Philip Rivers became San Diego's franchise quarterback, you can even talk about Chargers head coach Mike McCoy's history as Broncos offensive coordinator.
But there is no bigger talking point than what's at stake as far as playoff seeding.
The Broncos are 11-2 and control their own destiny. If Denver wins out, it will represent the AFC as the conference's No. 1 seed. If they stumble along the way—such as say, versus the Chargers on Thursday night—then things would become a lot more complicated. In this scenario, a Denver loss and a New England win in Week 15 would give the Patriots control over the AFC's top seed.
Denver has already clinched a playoff berth, and it holds a two-game lead over the second-place Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) in the AFC West, as the Broncos hold the tiebreaker over Kansas City.
The Chargers, on the other hand, are just fighting to stay alive in the playoff race.
San Diego trails both the Baltimore Ravens (7-6) and Miami Dolphins (7-6) for the AFC's last wild-card spot. The Ravens have control over the last playoff spot. Both the Dolphins and Chargers would need the Ravens to lose at least one more game in order to have a chance to clinch the AFC's No. 6 seed.
In the event of a head-to-head tie between the Chargers and Dolphins, San Diego would lose the tiebreaker due to its loss to Miami in Week 11.
What hurts the Chargers in their hunt for a playoff spot is their terrible conference record—San Diego currently holds a 3-6 record in conference play. The Dolphins stand at 6-3, while the Ravens sit at 6-4.
It would essentially require the Chargers to win all three of their remaining games—all against AFC opponents—in order to have a legitimate shot at clinching a playoff berth.
That only becomes possible, of course, if the Chargers manage to knock off the Broncos in Week 15.