Why would the Los Angeles Chargers, an AFC team with Super Bowl aspirations, want to help the Steelers, a conference foe with that same goal, make the postseason, as the title of this article suggests?
Is it because the Chargers defeated Pittsburgh, 33-30, in a Week 13 match-up at Heinz Field and think they’d be able to prevail again in a postseason rematch?
Could it be because the Ravens, Los Angeles’ opponent this Saturday night, are only a half-game behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North and would be a much tougher out in a playoff rematch?
- Scenario number one is plausible, that is, of course, if Los Angeles didn’t escape with the aforementioned victory over the Steelers after trailing, 23-7, at halftime.
The theory on scenario number two would also hold water, if not for the fact that Lamar Jackson, a rookie, would start at quarterback for Baltimore in any hypothetical playoff rematch against accomplished veteran Philip Rivers and the Chargers.
- No, the real reason the Chargers want the Steelers in the playoffs has nothing to do with Pittsburgh and everything to do with Los Angeles.
You see, the Chargers (11-3) are tied with the Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC. Los Angeles and Kansas City also play in the same division–the AFC West–and the runner-up would be relegated to the fifth seed and the very real prospect of not only having to play three postseason games to get to the Super Bowl, but playing all three games away from home.
It’s one thing to get to the final few weeks of the regular season knowing that, because of your record, your playoff journey will begin on Wildcard Weekend, regardless of whether you’re a division winner or just an at large wildcard team–such is the fate for the Steelers (8-5-1) and/or Ravens (8-6). It’s quite another to have a chance at the top seed and all the trapping s that go with it–including homefield advantage and a bye– only to drop all the way down to an at-large wildcard team.
- NFL history is littered with really good teams who were victims of playing in the same division as other really good teams.
- More often than not, the former doesn’t make it to the Super Bowl.
Recent history includes the 2008 Colts, who won their last nine regular season games to finish with a 12-4 mark but lost out on the AFC South title to the Titans before falling to the 8-8 Chargers in the wildcard round; the 2010 Saints, who finished with an 11-5 regular season record but lost the AFC south to the Falcons and had to travel to Seattle where they lost to a 7-9 Seahawks squad; and, of course, the 2011 Steelers, who finished 12-4 but lost the AFC North title (and a bye) to the Ravens before losing the wildcard game against Tim Tebow and the 8-8 Broncos.