The Chargers don’t travel to Indianapolis until Sunday for their next game.
In the meantime, they could still gain ground in their quest for a playoff spot.
Losses to New England and Las Vegas on Saturday would mean the Chargers could snag a postseason berth as early as Monday night against the Colts.
The Patriots will host Cincinnati starting at 10:00 a.m. PST and the Raiders will play in Pittsburgh at 5:15 p.m. Both are outsiders.
The Chargers, sitting 8-6 and sixth in the AFC, have their playoff hopes in their hands regardless of what the rest of the conference does. But the fall of New England and Las Vegas could speed things up.
“We don’t have to look over each other’s shoulders or be fans of other teams,” said safety Derwin James Jr. “If you can choose your own destiny, that’s good.”
James, who was called up to his third Pro Bowl this week, said he would return against the Colts after missing the Chargers’ last two games with a quadriceps strain.
He was limited in practice on Thursday but the team announced James was a full participant on Friday.
Defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day (knee) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (core) also switched from limited to full, meaning the Chargers should be near full strength against Indianapolis.
Among their starters, they will still be without edge rusher Joey Bosa (core), defensive tackle Austin Johnson (knee) and cornerback JC Jackson (knee).
But after the two most complete performances of the season, the defense is trending in the right direction health-wise.
“These guys have played at a high level over the past few weeks,” said James. “I’m just trying to be there to help bring that energy and experience and help us get where we want to be.”
The Chargers just beat Miami 23-17 and Tennessee 17-14 in consecutive weeks at home. Both opponents remain in position to reach the playoffs. The Chargers gave up just two touchdowns in each game after giving up an average of 27 points over the past three weeks.
Alohi Gilman stepped in for James, providing both playmaking and energy. Trainer Brandon Staley has praised the way fellow safety Nasir Adderley has reacted in James’ absence. Rookie defenseman Ja’Sir Taylor also emerged after spending most of the season on special teams.
“I’m not surprised because I see how they work,” James said. “I train with them all offseason. I believe in every man that we have in this dressing room, not just in defense but in this dressing room.”
The Chargers will be busy preparing for Indianapolis when the Patriots play the Bengals. This game will likely end around the time they leave the practice field.
Still, when asked Friday, several players said they don’t pay attention to what others are doing in the AFC.
“I don’t even know who’s playing who,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said. He later added, “I’ve been in a lot of NFL seasons. As long as we take care of what we’re supposed to take care of, these games don’t really matter.”
Said linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr., “All we have to worry about is our game. We just have to focus on ourselves and prepare for the Colts.”
The Chargers have not made the playoffs since the 2018 season. This team won the wild card weekend in Baltimore before losing in New England.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-12-23/chargers-can-clinch-nfl-playoff-spot-monday Here’s how Chargers can clinch an NFL playoff spot by Monday