In the NFL, Week 17 can be the most difficult week to predict games. Coaches are coy with whether they are going to sit their starters or not. The win-or-go-home pressure can have a great effect on some teams, as other teams crumble under that type of stress. The San Diego Chargers face this pressure this week as they prepare to battle the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs have struggled since their 9-0 start and have lost four of their last five. The Chiefs have already locked up a playoff spot but could still get the No. 2 seed with a win and a little help. On paper this would appear an opportunity for the Chargers since the Chiefs need help to move up. However, the outcome of final games has been unpredictable in recent years.
In the finale of the 2011 season, the Detroit Lions had nothing to play for as their playoff positioning was already locked. They faced the Green Bay Packers, who rested starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The team’s backup, Matt Flynn, would go on to throw for 480 yards and six touchdowns.
In the finale of the 2004 season, the Buffalo Bills needed a win to make the playoffs. They were facing the 14-1 Pittsburg Steelers. The Steelers elected to sit Ben Roethlisberger and some of their defensive starters. What appeared to be a cake walk into the playoffs for Buffalo turned into a gut-wrenching home defeat.
In the finale of the 2003 season, the Minnesota Vikings needed a victory and they would secure their division and make the playoffs. They were facing the lowly Arizona Cardinals, and winning seemed like a sure thing. Josh McCown who made his third career start hit Nate Poole as time expired for a touchdown as he was forced out of the end zone. That offseason the force out rule was changed, but it was too late and the Vikings missed the playoffs.
As cliché as it sounds, the Chargers need to prepare for the unpredictable. Coaches should look at tape of Chase Daniel. Knile Davis should be on the scouting report. Even if the Chiefs decide to rest their starters and stand pat with the No. 5 seed, history has shown wild things can happen in Week 17.
Photo Courtesy: Gary Robbins