At 7-7, the Chargers' playoff hopes currently hang by a thread. In addition to winning in Weeks 16 and 17, the Chargers need the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins to lose in each of those two weeks.
The Dolphins have already lost in Week 16, taking a 19-0 defeat against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. In Week 17, however, they face the Jets, who aren't exactly formidable opponents. That is perhaps the greatest threat to the Chargers making the playoffs.
Finally, the Chargers will not have easy wins themselves. They are expected to come out on top against the Raiders on Sunday, but a tough Week 17 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs looms large. Rivers led the Chargers to a victory over the Chiefs in Week 12, so they have at least shown they are capable of winning. However, San Diego will be thrilled if that game ends up having playoff implications at all.
Despite their minimal playoff hopes, the Chargers can take several bright spots away from their season. Perhaps most importantly, Philip Rivers reverted to 2010 form, ranking fifth in the NFL in passer rating, fourth in touchdown passes and first in completion percentage.
Keenan Allen also turned out a fantastic season, in his rookie campaign no less. The favorite to win the Rookie of the Year Award, Allen has compiled 931 receiving yards and seven touchdowns thus far.
Additionally, Ryan Mathews has proved he has what it takes to be an elite running back in the NFL. After the first three years of his career were marred by injuries and doubt, he figures to set a career high in rushing yards. Most importantly, he has played in all of the Chargers' games this year.
Are the Chargers legitimate playoff contenders for next season?
On the defensive side of the ball, Eric Weddle has been his usual self, racking up a team-high 97 tackles. Going forward, however, the Chargers must improve their secondary as a whole. They intercepted only nine passes this year, fourth fewest in the NFL. Additionally, they recorded only 26 sacks on the season, also fourth-fewest.
In short, San Diego has the potential to be a playoff-caliber team. Even if the Chargers fail to pull off a miracle this year, they have more than a decent chance of sneaking into the playoffs next season.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.