Respect for Chargers

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:15 PM ET

If they didn't receive it with their 11 wins, the San Diego Chargers should have earned the respect of the rest of the AFC with their latest loss. As disheartening as it was to see the late rally and easy overtime drive the Indianapolis Colts hung on them Sunday, the Chargers served notice they will not be pushovers.

Some solid defensive stands early in the game kept Colts quarterback Peyton Manning guessing and proved to the doubters that the Bolts are playing aggressively on both offence and defence.

The Chargers have won in the snow (at Cleveland), in the sun (at home), in the rain (also at home) and very nearly pulled off an upset on the Indy fast track. Should they get by the wild-card round, the Chargers will make an intriguing guest for either the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots in the division round.

- When it comes to fear, who would want to play the Buffalo Bills right now?

Not that an NFLteam can afford to get too cute in manipulating potential matchups, but the Colts may have less incentive than one might think to win their game in Denver on Sunday.

In most scenarios, should the Bills get in they would play the Colts at Indy in the wild-card round. The Colts have no way to improve their seeding by defeating the Broncos and likely will rest many of their starters.

They would love to have the Broncos back at the RCA Dome the following week, however, which gives them even less drive to win. The two teams met in the wildcard round last year and the Colts crushed the Broncos, 41-10.

- Should the Bills and Jets join New England in the post-season, it would continue the reputation of the AFC East as arguably the NFL's toughest division.

Since 1996, the East has sent at least three teams to the playoffs four times and in 1998 -- back when there were three wild-card entries per conference -- had four teams qualify.

- There are a number of reasons to believe in the Steelers but possibly none bigger than this: In their three biggest games of the season, Pittsburgh has enjoyed dominant wins.

First it was knocking off previously undefeated New England and Philadelphia. Then this past Sunday, the Steelers crushed the playoff hopes of their big division rival with a thorough 20-7 thrashing of the Baltimore Ravens.

- With their win on Friday, the Packers ensured there will be a playoff game in Green Bay, always a treat come the playoffs. Almost always, that is.

The Packers no longer are a dominant force at Lambeau Field, where they have lost four times this season. A year ago, they needed overtime to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in a playoff game and the year previous were destroyed 27-7 by the Atlanta Falcons.

- It is all but certain the Steelers won't risk quarterback Ben Roethlisberger further damaging his ribs in Pittsburgh's final game against the Bills on Sunday. Don't be so sure that means a downgrade at the position, however.

Tommy Maddox, the backup who lost his starting job to the likely rookie of the year back in September, will have plenty to prove including enhancing his value should the Steelers attempt to trade or release him.

- After a season in which Oakville kicker Mike Vanderjagt has been at odds with Indianapolis management, the Colts kicker had four field goals against the Chargers, including the 30-yard game winner in overtime.

As the defences toughen up, games could rest as much on his foot as quarterback Manning's arm. Meanwhile, Vanderjagt continues to give media in Indianapolis the silent treatment, refusing to comment after games.

---

SNAP JUDGMENTS

Rob Longley looks at the winners and losers of Week 16

COLTS (12-3): Found themselves in a fight and battled back. Nice tightener for playoffs.

SAINTS (7-8): Helped by a resting Falcons team, Saints ain't out of it yet.

BILLS (9-6): Yes they are beating inferior opponents, but they are blowing them out in all aspects of the game.

RAVENS (8-7): Lost their past two to make playoff prospects worse than dodgy.

JAGUARS (8-7): First their fans didn't show up, then the Jags didn't either.

JETS (10-5): Chad Pennington whined about his critics prior to the game then gave them fresh material in loss to Patriots.


Videos

Photos