NFL

Chargers and Raiders face off with playoff spots on the line

By Sports Desk January 07, 2022

The 18th and final round of the NFL regular season is upon us and there remains plenty of intrigue in a frantic scramble to make it to the playoffs.

Five teams from the AFC are competing for two postseason berths, while one spot is up for grabs in the NFC. 

Away from the Super Bowl picture, there are a number of other intriguing subplots ahead of an action-packed weekend.

Stats Perform previews some of the standout games and the best of the rest.


Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) @ Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)

The winner of this contest is guaranteed a playoff spot, while there is also a scenario whereby a tie could see both advance. Interestingly, six of the previous seven games in Oakland/Las Vegas have been decided by three points or fewer.

The Raiders beat the Colts on a last-second field goal last week to prevail 23-20 – their fifth win of the season by four points or fewer, tied with the Packers and the Titans for the most in the NFL.

Justin Herbert set the single-season passing touchdowns record for the Chargers last week with his 35th of the campaign. He now requires 172 yards this week to also take the passing-yards record.

The Chargers' 34-13 win against the Broncos was their fourth victory in a win while scoring 30 points or more. They have averaged 33.9 points per game in wins this season, second most in the NFL behind the Bills (35.1).

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

The Steelers have won three in a row against the Ravens, with all three of those victories being decided by less than a touchdown, the most recent coming by a 20-19 scoreline last month.

Last week's 12-point win over the Browns was the Steelers' largest of the season, though not since 1969 have they gone a full campaign without winning by at least 13 points.

The Ravens are coming off the back of a 20-19 loss to the Rams, their league-leading eighth game decided by three or fewer points this season – no team in NFL history has had more than nine games decided by three or fewer points.

Najee Harris rushed for 188 of the Steelers' 190 rushing yards against the Browns and accounts for 77.9 per cent of his side's rush yards this season, the highest share of any player in the NFL.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) @ Denver Broncos (7-9)

The Chiefs will be looking to respond to their defeat against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 17 when they take on the Broncos, whom they have defeated in 12 successive meetings – the league's joint-longest active winning streak along with the New England Patriots against the New York Jets.

Despite last week's defeat, the Chiefs have scored at least 30 points in four successive games, which is the longest-running streak in the NFL and one short of their all-time record of five set in 2004 and 2018.

Kansas lead the way in the NFL with 391 first downs this season and, with nine more this weekend, will become the fifth team in the last 70 years with 400 or more first downs in a season.

The Broncos were defeated by the Chargers last time out to ensure a losing season for the fifth straight year, an unwanted run they last went on from 1963 to 1972 with 10 straight losing seasons.

Elsewhere...

The Jaguars require a victory against the Colts to avoid becoming the fourth team in the last 30 years to have consecutive seasons with two or fewer wins. The Colts have lost three games this season by exactly three points – the Seahawks are the only team this season that has failed to win a single game by three or fewer points with more losses in such games (0-5).

The Rams can clinch their third NFC West title in six seasons season since moving back to Los Angeles with victory over the 49ers. However, the Niners have won each of their last five meetings with the Rams.

The Falcons have three successive wins against the Saints in Atlanta and are seeking a fourth in a row for the first time since between 1991 and 1994. Following defeat to the Bills last week, the Falcons have alternated between wins and losses over their last seven games.

The Bills can clinch their second consecutive division title with victory against the Jets, following on from a previous run of 24 straight seasons without finishing top. All 10 of Buffalo's wins this season have come by 12 points or more.

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