NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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In the Chase
by Dennis Ranahan

The Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle Seahawks have a lot more in common than just meeting this week for a Sunday afternoon game in the Northwest. They also are in divisions that have the teams with the best record in their conferences ahead of them in the standings.

The Chargers are chasing the 7 and 1 Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. The Seahawks are challenged by the quest to catch the league’s only undefeated team in the NFL, the 8 and 0 Los Angeles Rams. The Rams currently lead the Seahawks by three games in the loss column in the NFC West.

Both the Chiefs and Rams have tough games this week. Kansas City is in a horrible motivational spot for their visit to the Cleveland Browns, and the Rams are playing the talented New Orleans Saints in the Big Easy. If either, or both, the Chiefs and Rams stumble this week, the door could be open for either the Chargers or Seahawks to pick up ground. The Chargers could catch the Chiefs in the loss column with a win and Kansas City loss, while with a victory and Rams loss, the Seahawks would pull to within two games of the Rams in the loss column.

The Chargers come into play this week with five wins and two losses and have only been beaten once since losing their season opener at home to the division leading Chiefs. The Seahawks have won four of five games since opening the season with a pair of losses to the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears,

The Chargers success is keyed by solid quarterbacking from Philip Rivers, who will start his 200th consecutive game this week, and a defense that has the personnel to be one of the best in football. The Seahawks success is also accomplished by great quarterback play from Russell Wilson, who might be eligible for combat pay given he is forced to avoid defenders allowed in his backfield by a suspect offensive line.

One major difference between Rivers and Wilson is that the Seahawks quarterback has won a Super Bowl. He led the Seahawks to a win over the Denver Broncos to complete the 2013 season and guided the Seattle back to the Super Bowl the following year in a campaign that ended with Seattle losing to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Rivers has led a number of outstanding Chargers teams into the playoffs, but has failed to advance to a Super Bowl. One might assert from that fact that the Chargers are due.

This year, despite the Chiefs outstanding record that has been triggered by second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has led Kansas City to a league high 290 points, the Chargers defense has surrendered 42 fewer points than Kansas City. Before the confetti falls next February in the colors of the winning team at Super Bowl LIII, defense is likely to play a bigger role in determining the champ than offense.

Which brings us back to this week’s game in Seattle. The Seahawks have allowed 32 fewer points than the Chargers this year. Does that mean they get the edge at home this Sunday?

Not necessarily.

What the Chargers counter with is a more balanced attack and a far superior offensive line. While Wilson routinely is forced to avoid oncoming rushers and direct his offense on the run, Rivers has a more reliable pocket to pick out his receivers.

In the final analysis, the chance of Seattle even challenging, let alone catching the Rams this season, is remote. While the Chargers catching the Chiefs is a much more likely proposition, and that result would likely need to start with a road win this Sunday.

I’m betting it will.

Qoxhi Picks: Los Angeles Chargers (+2) over Seattle Seahawks