On the heels of responding to a comment on an older article projecting the impact of the Chris Chambers loss for the Chargers (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/283860-what-losing-chambers-means-to-sd-if-anything ), I realized something quite interesting. Cutting the better player (Chris Chambers rather than Craig Davis) might just prove to be a move of accidental genius on the part of A.J. Smith.
At present, the Denver Broncos are a game back of San Diego, with two fairly tough games remaining against the Eagles and the Colts. Surrounding those two toughies are three divisional games, all against teams not named the San Diego Chargers. Denver is not the same powerhouse that they were in Weeks 1 through 6. However, they are not quite as bad as their losing skid suggests. Falling somewhere in between those two extremes may be just enough to top the Eagles, if the cards fall right.
Meanwhile, San Diego has a rather deceptive schedule. They play only two winning teams in Dallas and Cincinnati, but two of the three sub-.500 teams they face are playing much better football now than at any other time this year. The Redskins shouldn’t be a problem, but the Titans look to be a major pain in the rear.
I project the Chargers to finish 4-1 to snag a 12-4 record, with the first round bye dependent on whether or not they can beat the Bengals. The Chargers should at least be able to end the season winning three of their final five to finish with a record of 11-5. This record would still give them the advantage, with the onus being on Denver.
If Denver can top the Eagles en route to a 4-1 run to end the season, they'll be 11-5 as well. The Tie-breaker would be interesting, as they would both be 5-1 in the division, be 1-1 head-to-head, and could quite easily both be 8-4 in the AFC.
One heck of a convoluted tie-breaking arrangement, if you ask me.
Aside from the Chargers holding up their end of the bargain, the biggest asset for the team, in terms of making the playoffs as AFC West Champions, would be the play of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs are nowhere near where they want to be, the sheer volume of mistakes they made in the Chargers 43-14 victory proves that notion. However, just a week earlier, they took on the Pittsburgh Steelers and came away with an unexpected win. They are a team capable of surprises.
The Chiefs also play Denver twice in the remaining five games. If the Chiefs can pull off a split against the Broncos, Denver would have to finish the season with a better overall record than the Chargers to win the division. Having a two game lead with the season three quarters of the way over (and the Broncos facing the Colts in one of those games) would mean the Chargers would need to suffer a major collapse to miss out on the postseason.
Where does Kansas City harbor its best chance for success? Behind the two men that have rejuvenated the Kansas City offense, running back Jamaal Charles and his spirited (if a little fumble-prone) running mate, and former Charger, Chris Chambers.
In four games for Kansas City, Chris Chambers has 17 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns. He is on pace to finish his half-year with Kansas City with better stats than his last year and a half with San Diego. He has established an instant rapport with Matt Cassel and, upon Dwayne Bowe’s return, gives the Chiefs a more well rounded offense.
Should Denver lose a game to Kansas City, you would have to think Chambers would be among the impact players. A Chiefs victory might be just enough to ensure San Diego that division crown and the home field advantage that comes with it.
The home field advantage in their first playoff game could prove to be crucial, should they be matched up against the Steelers or Ravens. Teams that, despite their records, I think match up better against the Chargers than the Patriots or Colts.
So in an interesting twist, A.J. Smith cutting Chambers for no reason other than to save a few bucks (as referenced in the article linked to above), could end up becoming a genius move that provides the final spark San Diego needs to go deep into the playoffs.