SAN DIEGO — The best scenario for suddenly resurgent Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers to reach the playoffs is to win their final two games — both on the road — and have Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos follow their loss to New England with two more defeats.
Otherwise, one more Denver win will knock the Chargers out of the AFC West race.
The Chargers' shot at the second AFC wild-card spot is more jumbled, although San Diego could be eliminated with a loss Sunday and a win by the New York Jets or Cincinnati Bengals.
Even before stunning the Baltimore Ravens 34-14 on Sunday night, the Chargers got a lot of help. Denver, Oakland, the Jets and Tennessee all lost.
San Diego has won three straight following a six-game losing streak that had fans calling for coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith to be fired. Coupled with Denver's first loss in seven games and Oakland's third straight loss, the Chargers (7-7) are tied with the Raiders for second in the AFC West, one game behind the Broncos.
On Saturday, the Chargers travel to face the Detroit Lions, who at 9-5 need one win to clinch their first playoff berth since the 1999 season. The Broncos visit the Buffalo Bills, who were eliminated from the playoffs in a 37-10 loss at San Diego a week ago.
Turner was asked about needing help from the Bills, who've lost seven straight after a 5-2 start.
"We're getting ready for Detroit. I'd love to talk to you all day about it but we're going to get back up and look at tape of Detroit," he said Monday. "I know that the only thing that matters to us is we've got to find a way to win this week. We'll see what happens on the weekend and then we've got to find a way to win when we go to Oakland."
The victory against the Ravens was the first for the Chargers against a team that brought a winning record into the contest. So it remains to be seen if three weeks that have led to giddiness can overcome the damage of the six-game losing streak. Before beating the Ravens, the Chargers beat the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars and Bills.
The one constant in the three victories was Rivers' play. He threw for 270 yards and one score against the Ravens, who got only two good shots on him Sunday night. Rivers has thrown for seven touchdowns in the three victories. He hasn't thrown an interception in four games after throwing a whopping 17 in the first 10 games.
Turner credited Rivers' play to the offensive line stabilizing after injury-related upheaval and the return of wide receiver Malcom Floyd.
"The ball's coming out extremely quick. He's not taking chances. If it's not pretty clean, he's getting the ball checked down," Turner said. "I think they said he's thrown 120 throws without an interception. He's playing at a high level."
The Chargers were so good against the Ravens that they didn't punt, leading Rivers to call it their most complete game.
Still, they know what's ahead of them. In 2008, the Chargers rallied from a 4-8 start to claim the AFC West at 8-8. While they won their final four games, Denver lost its last three. This time, Oakland is a factor and there are more wild-card scenarios.Comment on this story
"There are more outs this year with wild-card scenarios and who knows what, but one thing that stays true in all scenarios is we have to win our next two games," Rivers said. "Let's just worry about us and what we control. That's going to Detroit on Christmas Eve. If it's not enough after Jan. 1, then it's not enough. But we're going to go down fighting."
By surpassing 4,000 yards passing, Rivers joined Peyton Manning (1999-04 and 2006-10) and former teammate Drew Brees (2006-11) as the only QBs in NFL history with at least four-straight 4,000-yard seasons.