Chargers can clinch high AFC wild-card spot earlier than kickoff

On Sunday, the Chargers will play one in every of their most vital video games of the season.

Except the sport means nothing.

A victory at Denver or a loss by Baltimore clinches the AFC’s No. 5 seed for the Chargers, who’ve the identical 10-6 file because the Ravens however maintain the tiebreaker due to a greater convention file.

The NFL on Wednesday set the kickoff of Baltimore’s regular-season finale at Cincinnati for 10 a.m., West Coast time.

That’s three hours, 25 minutes earlier than the Chargers and Broncos will start, which means the Chargers ought to know by kickoff if the results of their sport nonetheless holds significance.

Coach Brandon Staley mentioned he’ll put together his gamers this week like some other of the season, explaining the starters will proceed to obtain many of the work in observe.

However he mentioned he and his workers will probably be prepared to regulate if the end result of the Ravens’ sport dictates a special strategy.

“You have to take the facts on the ground, as they happen in real time, to make your determinations,” Staley mentioned. “That’s what we’re going to do. Once we find out about that game, we’ll make the appropriate decisions moving forward, just take it case-by-case.”

If the Ravens win or tie and the Chargers lose, the Chargers would drop to the No. 6 seed, which might imply a wild-card spherical journey to Kansas Metropolis, Buffalo or Cincinnati.

The workforce that finishes fifth will play on the winner of the sport Saturday night time between Tennessee and Jacksonville, these two battling for the AFC South championship.

“Obviously, we’re not going to know until Sunday,” Staley mentioned. “Our approach this week is to go beat the Broncos and to play our best.”

The Chargers appear to be peaking on the proper time, having gained 4 in a row and clinching the franchise’s first postseason berth in 4 years.

In addition they are coming off one in every of their most full offensive performances of the season in a 31-10 win over the Rams. Earlier than that sport, the Chargers’ offense had been sputtering.

So, additionally in play Sunday for Staley is the thought of sustaining momentum and ending sturdy heading into the playoffs.

“Let’s keep it going,” huge receiver Mike Williams mentioned. “I feel like we’ve got a rhythm going. We’re in a great spot to keep it going. That’s our job to go out there and play. But, whatever the coaches decide, I’m with it.”

Throughout the franchise’s most up-to-date playoff 12 months, the 2018 Chargers confronted an analogous scenario getting into the ultimate Sunday of the common season.

Additionally enjoying in Denver, that workforce had an opportunity to win the AFC West with a victory and a loss by Kansas Metropolis. The NFL set its schedule so these video games began concurrently.

However the drama pale rapidly because the Chiefs jumped to a 21-3 halftime lead over the then-Oakland Raiders en path to a 35-3 win. The Chargers beat the Broncos 23-9 in a sport that ended up being in any other case meaningless.

The 2022-23 Chargers additionally try to prepared edge rusher Joey Bosa for the postseason after he missed 12 video games due to core-muscle surgical procedure. The four-time Professional Bowler performed 24 snaps in his return Sunday.

Coming again this week is Derwin James Jr., the workforce’s star security. A quadriceps harm and concussion have restricted him to 25 snaps over the past 4 weeks, which means James may want some work even when the sport in Denver lacks impression within the standings.

Staley mentioned James would return to observe in full Thursday, the Chargers’ first on-field exercise of the week.

“When it comes to being a player, you cannot be half in, half out of a game,” working again Austin Ekeler mentioned. “So, for us, we’re a full-go.… If Coach wants to make that decision, they’re going to have to drag us off.”

There are a number of Chargers who may use additional time to heal, together with proper sort out Trey Pipkins III, who has been coping with a knee sprain many of the season.

Quarterback Justin Herbert appeared on the workforce’s harm report Wednesday due to a sore left shoulder popping out of the sport towards the Rams however Staley mentioned Herbert could be a full participant in observe Thursday.