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How The (AFC) West Will Be Won: Five Storylines For NFL Week 15

The thought process was commendable. If the Los Angeles Chargers were serious about winning AFC West, the first step would be beating the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. They knew. The league knew.

After fighting back from a 14-point deficit and coming within 28-27 with four seconds to play at Arrowhead, the Chargers could have attempted an extra point to send the game into overtime. That would have been the easy way.

Mike Williams

(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

It would have meant risking the outcome of the coin flip. If that didn’t go well, it would have given the ball back to Chiefs quarterback Pat Mahomes, a kid quite capable of directing a TD drive to end the game, and the team’s dream, before the Chargers had a chance to score themselves.

So, the Chargers went for the win. And win they did, when Philip Rivers hit a wide-open Mike Williams in the right corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion. 29-28. The pennant race lives on.

Regardless of what comes next, the Chargers (11-3) are in the playoffs for the first time in seven years. And they are tied with the Chiefs for first in the division after winning for the first time in their last 10 games against them.

After Rivers hit Williams from the 1 to make it 27-26, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn made the call for two. Rivers found Williams again for the win, with no defender within 10 yards of him. The Chargers rushed the field. They had finished the job.

“The touchdown to Mike, our first touchdown was that same play,” Rivers said. “We dressed it up a little bit, put all three receivers over there, motioned and hoped they wouldn’t recognize it. And, they busted a coverage.”

The Chargers can win the AFC’s top seed and drop the Chiefs to the No. 5 seed as a Wild Card. But some things need to happen. Kansas City holds the tiebreaker and obviously would need to lose at least one of their last two games – at Seattle, home against Oakland, providing the Chargers sweep.

Wentz Could Be Grounded

The Philadelphia Eagles play the Rams in Los Angeles on Sunday night, hardly an envious task considering how upset the Rams likely are about being held to two field goals in Chicago last week. On Sunday Night Football, no less.

And it looks like they will do it without starting QB Carson Wentz, who has a fractured vertebra. In fact, the Eagles are in the process of determining whether Wentz should even play again this season.

“He has a stress injury that has evolved over time and it won’t require surgery,” said Eagles coach Doug Pederson.

Rest can help Wentz, which is why the Eagles (6-7) are discussing whether risking further injury is worth the chance. Injuries such as Wentz’s can take as much as three months to heal. Pederson said if Wentz is cleared to play, it would mean the organization feels confident he will be OK.

The injury is the prune on top of a very disappointing season for the defending Super Bowl champions. Wentz also missed the first two games while still recovering from the season-ending knee injury he sustained in last December against the Rams. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will regain control of the team.

Now Ridley Is Upset With The Patriots

When New England played Tennessee earlier this season, it was Titans halfback Dion Lewis who expressed anger about the way his former team let him to float to free agency without much of a fight after last season.

Now it’s Stevan Ridley’s turn. The Pittsburgh Steelers halfback told the Boston Herald the Pats did him wrong after he injured himself.

“That’s my old team. [The departure] really hadn’t sat well, and I’m a competitor,” Ridley reiterated to the Pittsburgh media. “I’m going to compete. To have the opportunity to be out there on the field, going against my old team, you can bet it. I’m fired up about it and I’m excited.”

This is a big game for the slumping Steelers (7-5-1), who have lost three straight, and the Pats (9-4), beaten last week by Miami’s last-second fire drill. And with Pittsburgh’s John Conner out, there’s a very good chance Ridley will have a shot for payback.

“I was trashed after an injury,” Ridley told the Herald. “I’m just going to put it that way. I’m not going to say specifically, but to be a starter for [the Patriots] for four years, to tear my ACL and never get a call back, that’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Ridley has a point. He was with the Pats from 2011-14 and gained 1,263 yards with 12 TDs in 2012. Two years later, he tore his ACL and MCL and that was that in New England, who Ridley said never asked him back.

Ridley hasn’t played much since. The Steelers signed him last December, but he has sat behind Conner all season and is now sharing carries with Jaylen Samuels.

The Steelers, who lost in Oakland last week, are still in first place of the AFC North, but just a half-game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens. If they lose again, they’ll try again to snap out of it next week at New Orleans.

Winston Asks For Koetter’s Return

It looks like things are cool between Tampa Bay’s QB Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter, even though the boss benched him earlier this season because of his sporadic play.

Winston made that clear this week by offering Koetter his endorsement, even though the team has won only 19 of 45 games since he became its coach in 2016.

Koetter may be one of the coaches canned after the season ends. He the Bucs (5-8), their defense has allowed 383 points, the most in the NFC and third (behind Cincinnati and Oakland) in the league

“Yeah, I’m always fighting for my head coach,” Winston told the Tampa Bay Times. “Every week. I think we all are. We’ve got a lot of respect for that man. He holds us to high standards, and we’ve got to hold ourselves to that standard, too.”

Newton Thinks Jordan Is No Saint

Imagine you are Cam Newton for a moment. You get a gift in the mail from New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, whose team you will play on Sunday.

You open it: A bottle of wine. Nice. And a broom. What the hell?

This was Jordan’s way of reminding Newton how the Saints beat the Carolina Panthers three times last season, including the playoffs. And it obviously indicated Jordan expects the trend to continue.

“Yeah, it was wine. And they sent a broom too,” said Newton. “I ain’t take the pack off, so I’m going to return to the sender if everything gets taken care of the way we know we can do it. And that’s all in good fun.”

Still, Newton said he felt disrespected by the gesture, which should help him prepare for what might be the Panthers last gasp. They have lost five straight and at 6-7 barely remain alive for a wildcard.

“On the field we have a respectful dislike for each other,” said Newtom. “Off the field it’s a different story.”