December has begun with the Chargers sitting in the seventh playoff spot and with a winning record. It has been a while since they have been serious playoff contenders.
They went to the playoffs in 2018 when they had a 12-4 record, and a Baltimore Ravens loss in week 15 stopped them from winning the division and having home-field advantage in the playoffs.
For the last two seasons, they have posted losing records along with high draft selections. They turned it into quarterback Justin Herbert and left tackle Rashawn Slater.
The team is obviously thankful for having them both, but they like playing meaningful football in December.
"It gives you another reason to want to play even harder," Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said. "I mean, we're obviously playing as hard as we can regardless, but yeah, definitely being able to say you're in the hunt still is a little extra sugar on top, right. The main goal is obviously trying to get all the way to the end."
This Chargers team hasn't been at its best the last few weeks.
After starting the season 4-1, they have been 2-4 since, and there have been some real issues on all three phases.
"As far as wins and losses, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot," Allen said. "We have to beat the guys we are supposed to beat, and we haven't been doing that."
The Chargers have beaten the Chiefs, Steelers, and Browns but lost to the Vikings and the Broncos.
The penalties, dropped passes, and the inability to stop the run has slowed them down. Their defense is the worst in the NFL, giving up 145.3 yards per game. They are second in the league in dropped passes with 28, according to Sportsradar. They also average 64 penalty yards a game, which is the bottom ten in the NFL according to TeamRankings.
"Where we're at, we still have a chance," Ekeler said. "That's what you're looking for, especially coming into December. We're coming down the backstretch here. We can control where we stand as, as long as we win, play the Bengals there in front of us right now. So that's when we got to get."
The Chargers face a tall task moving forward they face Cincinnati this Sunday, which is not the same Bengals team from the past. They have numerous weapons, including receiver Ja'Marr Chase, running back Joe Mixon, and quarterback Joe Burrow.
They also face the Giants, Chiefs on Thursday night, Texans, Broncos, and Raiders. They might need to go 4-2 to get into the playoffs as a wild card team.
"It's wide open," Chargers receiver Keenan Allen explained. "The whole NFL is wide open, two games we are only back. That's everybody, so you got to keep winning. You got to execute. It's still wide open you're still fighting for something."
The Chargers sit at the seventh playoff spot. It is so tight that they are one win away from being the fifth seed while they are also one loss away from dropping out of the playoffs. The AFC has 12 teams that have a .500 record or more.
December is the month that makes and breaks teams.
"Every game we play from here on out is going to be a big game," Chargers safety Derwin James said. "We have to be ready."
Things need to be fixed if they are to make the playoffs for the third time since 2013. As Allen previously said, they need to stop "shooting themselves in the foot."
The team feels good about their chances.
"It's a big difference," Allen said. "We got the right team, the right coaches, everything is going good. So, we just got to put together."
Nuts N’ Bolts
· Injury report. DNP: CB Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion), S Alohi Gilman (quad). Limited: LG Matt Feiler (ankle), DB Trey Marshall (ankle). Full: CB Tevaughn Campbell (toe), LB Kenneth Murray (ankle).