Both the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins knew that their Week 11 matchup had huge playoff implications, and that the loser could be in big trouble in the AFC Wild Card race. Unfortunately for the Chargers, they suffered a heartbreaking 20-16 loss in a game in which their execution was simply lacking far too often.
The loss was the third straight for San Diego, dropping them to 4-6. The New York Jets and the Dolphins are currently the co-leaders for the final Wild Card, and the Chargers are one of six teams with a 4-6 record chasing them. Unfortunately for San Diego, they do not hold tiebreakers over any of those teams, and they are technically in 13th place in the AFC.
Making matters worse is the Chargers’ upcoming schedule. They have a road game against the Kansas City Chiefs this week, followed by games against the 7-4 Cincinnati Bengals, the surging New York Giants, the 9-1 Denver Broncos, archrival and fellow Wild Card contender Oakland Raiders and a second matchup with the 9-1 Chiefs.
The Chargers will not have an easy road to victory in any of those games, and at the very least, likely losses to the Broncos and Chiefs cap their potential record at 7-9. Things could get even worse, as San Diego has arguably the most difficult remaining schedule of any team in the NFL. There was concern during the Chargers’ hot start that they weren’t as good as their weak schedule made them appear, and it seems those fears are about to be realized.
The Chargers have been able to move the ball offensively, but they rank just 22nd in the NFL in red zone percentage, which is a big reason they rank 7th in total offense but just 17th in scoring offense. Defensively, their 27th ranked pass defense has failed them again and again this season, and things are not likely to get any better given the difficulty of their schedule. That combination has been too much to overcome, and will continue to undermine their chances of success down the stretch.
The Chargers had hoped that a resurgent year from Philip Rivers and improvement on the offensive line and from the defense would be enough to get them back to the playoffs. Truth be told, the Chargers are likely going to finish with a record that is not a all a fair depiction of their talent or how they have played. However, a difficult schedule can bring even the best teams down, and few have as challenging a slate of games remaining as the Chargers. In the end, that will be the biggest reason San Diego will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight year.