Why upcoming schedule could help Chargers qualify for playoffs

They led Kansas City by as many as seven points and five times by four, still leading 27-23 in the last minute of the game.

They led San Francisco from early in the first quarter through the middle of the fourth and had one chance in the final minutes until their last three possessions ended in a three-and-off, a four-and-off and an interception.

All of those opportunities — and two crucial games — were lost for the Chargers over the final two Sunday nights, and their season suddenly neared a breaking point with the arrival of Thanksgiving week.

“We played two really tough games in a row against two really quality teams in prime time,” said coach Brandon Staley on Monday. “I feel like I’m at our level [of play] was high. I think we know exactly where we are in the context of the NFL landscape.”

On the outside, the Chargers, 5-5 and ninth in the AFC, are a game behind New England, Cincinnati and the New York Jets. The top seven teams from each conference advance to the postseason.

The Chargers have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and don’t have many more games to lose to end that streak.

However, it should be noted that the remaining schedules for the Patriots, Bengals and Jets appear significantly more difficult than those of the Chargers.

Over the past decade, the team, ranked seventh in the AFC, has lost seven on four occasions, lost eight on three occasions, lost six twice and lost five on one occasion.

“We definitely know we’re outside of the playoffs right now and we’re looking into it,” said wide receiver DeAndre Carter. “We’ve got to get that win in Arizona and hopefully put some wins together.”

The Chargers' Austin Ekeler (30) is stopped as teammate DeAndre Carter (1) tries to fend off Chiefs corner Jaylen Watson.

The Chargers’ Austin Ekeler (30) is stopped for a brief win as teammate DeAndre Carter (1) tries to fend off Chiefs corner Jaylen Watson.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers just lost to two teams that appear to be headed into the postseason, the Chiefs, who are 8-2 in the AFC, and the rising 49ers, who are 5-4 and seventh in the NFC step into their game on Monday night.

Of the Chargers’ remaining opponents, only two — Miami and Tennessee — look like playoff contenders. The Dolphins and Titans are each 7-3 and first in the East and South divisions, respectively.

Both games will take place at SoFi Stadium, which sounds encouraging but doesn’t guarantee anything. The Chargers have lost their last two at home and are only 2-3 at Inglewood this season.

This is a team struggling to make a statement at home, which seems fitting given how often the Chargers have to use a silent count in their building.

“We just stick together,” Carter said. “We know we have a really good team. We have good players in the dressing room. We believe in our culture, believe in our coaching team.”

Along with Miami and Tennessee, the Chargers’ other five remaining opponents have a combined record of 17-33-1 — a .343 win ratio.

These games all seem winnable, but the Chargers need to produce along the way. They play in Arizona, Las Vegas, Indianapolis and Denver. Their other game is against the Rams at SoFi Stadium.

“What we have to keep doing is improve our football team, keep bringing the lads back and making that progress for the next game,” Staley said. “As hard as it is… you can’t let these games affect your next.”

The Chargers continue to bet on their improving health, with the latest addition being wide receiver Keenan Allen.

Mike Williams also came back on Sunday but didn’t make it through two series before aggravating an ankle sprain from last month. Staley said Williams’ latest change was “not a significant re-injury.” The Chargers will learn more about Williams’ availability later this week.

The status of Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa also remains unclear. He missed eight weeks due to a groin injury that required surgery. Staley has said the team expects Bosa to return sometime this season.

Linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. suffered a sting Sunday night, Staley said, adding that Murray felt better Monday.

Running back Joshua Kelley is expected to return to practice this week. He can return but remains on the injured reserve list with a knee problem.

“It’s easy in the NFL when you’re going through this losing streak to have people from outside the building try to break us up in the locker room,” Carter said. “But the biggest thing for us is that we just stay together, keep working, keep trusting and believing in our culture and our program, and we’re going to turn it around.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-11-21/upcoming-schedule-chargers-playoffs Why upcoming schedule could help Chargers qualify for playoffs

Emma Bowman

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