Why can’t it be Philip Rivers’ year?

Don’t look now, but the San Diego Chargers have won four games in a row. They enter the AFC Playoffs as the six-seed, and they need to travel to Cincinnati — where there might be snow — and Cincinnati is no slouch (their defense is excellent, for one thing). For the Chargers to win the AFC, they’d need to win three games on the road — at Cincinnati, then at Denver, and then a third game, which would be at either New England, Indianapolis, or Kansas City. Could it be done? It could, but it’s a tough sell. Or maybe it’s not.

Rivers gets a lot of shit — he can look like Chunk from The Goonies sometimes when he’s fired up, he has a ton of kids, and despite a couple of really excellent years in San Diego — they made the playoffs his first four years as a starter — they’ve never gone farther than losing the AFC Championship Game. People also think he can be brash, and the QBs most associated with him — Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger were in the same draft as him, and Drew Brees was ahead of him on the SD depth chart for a few years — have a combined five Super Bowl championships (i.e. half of the titles won since Rivers entered the league). He’s also thrown eight TDs and nine INTs in his playoff career, despite being a pretty consistent 30-TD, 4,000-yard guy on the regular season side. There’s also this whole thing with Jay Cutler:

But think about this for a second. If they get past Cincinnati — which is certainly possible, because people love the “Andy-Dalton-isn’t-the-answer” story in the NFL (also, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since January of 1991) — then they’d have to face Denver, in Denver. They already beat Denver this season – in Denver. It will be cold and we all know the story about Peyton Manning and cold weather. Oh, and Rivers’ teams eliminated Peyton’s teams twice from the playoffs when he was in Indy. Rivers is 5-3 against Manning overall (2-0 in the playoffs). You know Denver’s going to be tight after what happened last year in that Baltimore game, so … let’s say the Chargers could eek one out there. They’d probably head to New England, and New England is a team that’s historically given ’em trouble (their two most painful exits came at the hands of NE), but they’d be entering with a head of steam, and the Patriots of this latter part of their era always seem destined to lose in a spot like this. Could we suddenly see Rivers in a Super Bowl? It’s a stretch, and probably a big one at that, but the NFL playoffs are all about going in hot — and Rivers is doing that. Just keep an eye out.

Ted Bauer