By Dave Thomas
If you're a football fan, this might be close to the best time of the year.
On the high school and college gridirons, you have long-standing rivalry games and trips either booked or about to be for post-season playoffs and bowl games.
On the professional level, there is exciting jockeying for a handful of playoff spots in the respective conferences after the division winners have all but been established. For the San Diego Chargers, they find themselves right in that mix.
Ravens, Bolts Both 7-4
In one of a number of big games this week, the Baltimore Ravens host the Chargers Sunday afternoon, marking the first of five remaining games the Bolts have against playoff contenders to finish out the regular season.
As of today, there are six AFC teams sporting 7-4 records, including first-place Indianapolis in the AFC South. The others are the Chargers, Ravens, Steelers, Browns and Chiefs. New England holds the top spot in the AFC at 9-2, while Denver sits a game back with an 8-3 mark, with Cincinnati holding a 7-3-1 record. Lastly, Buffalo and Miami are both 6-5, while Houston is 5-6.
Needless to say, a San Diego win this Sunday would greatly strengthen the Chargers' hold on an AFC wild card spot. A loss, however, would certainly not eliminate the Bolts, but would put into question their ability for a second-straight playoff appearance.
After the trip to Baltimore, San Diego has back-to-back home games with the Patriots (Dec. 7) and Broncos (Dec. 14), then finishes the regular season on the road at San Francisco (Dec. 20), and what could be a huge game in Kansas City (Dec. 28).
So, can you see what a potential logjam there could be over the next five weeks? It is conceivable that the AFC West could get three teams in the playoffs (as it did in 2013), though certainly not a sure bet.
San Diego gets both the Broncos and Chiefs one more time, while the Broncos travel to Kansas City this Sunday evening (Denver won the first meeting this season at home).
If there is, in fact, a logjam after the final Sunday in December, the head-to-head records come into play first and foremost.
As of today, San Diego owns a 22-10 win over Buffalo, with losses to both Miami (37-0) and Kansas City in the first meeting (23-20).
With that information in mind, you can see why getting out of Baltimore this Sunday with a win is all the more important for Philip Rivers and company.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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