It’s not too difficult to figure how the Chargers season extends into the postseason.
The Kansas City Chiefs could lose their final two games, opening the door for the Chargers to win the AFC West. The Tennessee Titans could lose to the Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars, the Baltimore Ravens could beat the Indianapolis Colts, and the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills could lose to the New England Patriots. All of that would open the door to the wild card. So would two Baltimore losses and one Buffalo loss in the final two weeks.
But there’s a catch.
“All the scenarios out there we’re aware of,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “And they all include us having to win.”
For the Chargers to make the playoffs, they must finish with two victories. And to do that, they first must beat the New York Jets on the road Sunday.
“We’ve talked about it. I’ve let these guys know what we’re playing for,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “But we understand that all those playoff scenarios don’t mean anything if we don’t win on Sunday.”
There’s a clarity in that, Rivers said. Any and all scoreboard watching is meaningless without victories over the Jets and, eventually, the Oakland Raiders.
All season, the Chargers have had to figure ways to make things that are complex — moving to , what at times seems to be an indifferent city, rebounding from a dreadful start, convoluted playoff scenarios — more palatable.
“We’ve had no choice. If not, you’re going to feel pulled and maxed in so many different directions — starting with the move, starting with a new training camp, starting with all those things,” Rivers said. “I feel like we’re a pretty mentally tough group, with all we’ve handled and the way we’ve handled it, to battle back to where we are says a lot.”
Rivers said there are no moral victories in fighting back to .500, though. There are still clear goals the team wants to accomplish, and they’re still possible.
“I think the path there, all of them including us winning, isn’t that crazy. There’ve been crazier paths to get in,” Rivers said. “But again, if you get distracted by that and don’t take care of your business and if all the things happen that needed to happen, then you’re even sicker. I think it’s key for us to focus on just trying to find a way to win this week.”
Austin Ekeler joins the club
As several Chargers passed Austin Ekeler’s locker on the way to the practice field Wednesday, they couldn’t help but gawk at the protective club on the running back’s broken left hand, which looked big and round enough to strap a helmet around.
“It’s not light, and it’s definitely not comfortable,” said Ekeler, who broke his hand in the fourth quarter of the Chargers’ 30-13 loss in Kansas City on Saturday night. “But you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Ekeler, an undrafted rookie, was limited in practice with his hand heavily padded and taped in an effort to determine whether he can play against the Jets.
If he does play, it’s highly doubtful he will be able to catch passes out of the backfield. It’s possible he could run with the ball in his right hand. Most likely, he’ll be relegated to special teams, where he has had a positive effect this season, especially as a gunner on the punt team.
“If you have a cast on your hand, you’re probably not going to touch the ball too many times, but there are some things we can do,” Lynn said. “If he’s comfortable carrying the ball in his [right] hand, if he’s comfortable on special teams … he was an asset in the backfield, but he’s also one of our better special-teams players, so we want to see if he can play with this on.”