Philip Rivers admitted he’ll be scoreboard-watching Sunday, his eyes following a certain result very closely.
“Our scoreboard,” the Chargers quarterback said, “that scoreboard in the stadium there.”
The game inside Broncos Stadium at Mile High will be his sole focus, he explained, even as the Chargers’ postseason fate is equally tied to what’s happening some 600 miles away at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chargers need a victory and a loss or tie by Kansas City against Oakland to clinch the AFC West and top playoff seed in the conference. If they tie Denver, only a Chiefs’ loss would give the Chargers the top spot.
Anything else and they’ll finish as the No. 5 seed and face the challenge of having to win three consecutive road games to reach the Super Bowl.
“It is weird to be rooting for the Raiders,” coach Anthony Lynn said, smiling. “But that’s the nature of this business. They’re comrades.”
Lynn went on to explain that he too has no plans of monitoring the score in Kansas City, particularly because, as the Chargers’ head coach, he is 1-2 all-time against the Broncos.
Denver came into StubHub Center during Week 11 and upset the Chargers 23-22, one of only two games they’ve lost since Sept. 23.
The Chargers opened the 2017 season by losing in Denver 24-21 when a 44-yard field goal attempt by Younghoe Koo was blocked in the final five seconds. Six weeks later, they shut out the Broncos at home 21-0.
In the teams’ most recent meeting, the Chargers had a 19-7 lead and the ball in Denver territory late in the third quarter before crumbling.
And the offense is coming off its least productive game of the season, a 22-10 defeat Saturday in which it gained only 198 total yards against a blitzing Baltimore defense.
The Chargers’ longest drive netted 56 yards, 25 of which came as the result of Ravens’ penalties.
Other than that, they didn’t advance the ball more than 34 yards on any one series. They sustained only two drives beyond six plays and picked up more than one first down on just five on 12 possessions.
“Let’s focus on us, get back to playing the way we’ve played most of this year,” Rivers said. “Offensively, we’ve got plenty of things to work on this week.”
At least, the Chargers are in a position where none of the results Sunday will prevent them from advancing to the playoffs. They clinched their berth Dec. 13 with a victory against the Chiefs.
“It’s nice to be in a Week 17 game and not having to worry about everybody else and us,” said Rivers, who is in his 15th season. “We know we’ve got a game the following weekend.”
On a day when the Broncos officially lost running back Phillip Lindsay, the Chargers checked in as healthy as they’ve been all season.
Only left tackle Russell Okung (ankle) and tight end Sean Culkin (back) were limited in practice Wednesday.
As the primary backup to Melvin Gordon, Ekeler missed the past two games dealing with concussion symptoms and stiffness. Lynn said he has officially cleared concussion protocol.
“We’re going to put him out there,” Lynn said. “He’s back full…He looked good in practice. Just getting his timing back, catching the ball, running.”
Lindsay, who made the Pro Bowl as an undrafted rookie, suffered a wrist injury in Denver’s loss Monday at Oakland. Further testing Wednesday confirmed he will require surgery and three to four months recovery time.
In the Week 11 game against the Chargers, Lindsay had 11 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
The Broncos have lost three in a row and, at 6-9, are assured of producing the franchise’s first consecutive losing seasons since the early 1970s.
Still, quarterback Case Keenum insisted there will be motivation for a bunch that, after Sunday, heads for vacation.
“To go out on a high note, to beat a team going into playoffs, maybe to show some other teams how to beat them,” he told reporters in Denver. “We’ve got a great opportunity here, with a great opponent, and it’d be a great way to end the year.”
Rivers said he has no doubt the Broncos pose a threat, no matter what the standings suggest.
“You only get 16 [games], that you’re promised,” he said. “You play them all regardless of what’s coming next…It’s a division opponent. It’s professional football. I expect to get their best. And we know their best is dang good.”