Every fan wants their team to make the playoffs, obviously. Unfortunately, there are only a finite amount of post-season slots, which means good teams miss out every season. One consolation is that the current playoff setup makes for some very interesting and entertaining divisional races. Every game matters because there are such big implications on the line.
One of the more interesting divisional stories lies in the AFC West. Despite Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's late season swoon last year, most experts expect him to bounce back and lead the Broncos back to the playoffs. However, one AFC West writer isn't so sure.
"After sending three teams to the playoffs in 2013, only division winner Denver (12-4) went to the postseason in 2014," ESPN's Bill Williamson wrote. "I expect another one-team representation from the AFC West this year. But I'm going with San Diego as the division winner. It would be the Chargers' first division championship since 2009, when they went 13-3. San Diego will be more in the neighborhood of 10-6 this season. The Broncos' fade is inevitable due to Manning's age and offensive line issues. Kansas City is average and Oakland is still building. The Chargers have an improving roster and quarterback Philip Rivers is still in his prime. I am predicting the Year of the Chargers in the AFC West."
The Chargers finished 9-7 last season but went just 2-4 within the division. The organization's hope is that a consistent running game, led by first-round rookie Melvin Gordon, will help even the playing field in the AFC West. Manning's sudden downturn - his passer rating over the final five games (including playoffs) was just 79.9 and he had just one 300-yard passing game in his final seven outings - has opened a window of opportunity for San Diego.
Will they seize it?