If the San Diego Chargers can somehow come into Mile High on Sunday afternoon and defeat the Broncos, they'll move to 5-5 on the season, just one game back from Denver who would then be 6-4. If they don't, and the Broncos, who are favored by over a touchdown, defeat them as expected, they'll fall to 4-6, three games behind the Broncos. Their season will be over.
The Chargers are a cornered animal at this point. The Broncos must be aware of that and not take victory for granted.
At stake for San Diego is far more than only their hopes for the 2012 season. The Chargers coach, quarterback, general manager, and even their future in San Diego could be on the line.
Norv Turner's seat is about as hot as they come. A loss to Denver will basically spell the end of the season for his team. Even if the Chargers were to run the table after a loss to the Broncos, the best they could do is finish 10-6. And they won't - not with Baltimore and Pittsburgh still on the schedule. They'll miss the playoffs again, for the third straight season, after immediate exits from the post season in each of the two previous years.
That type of inefficiency isn't going to be accepted amongst a fan base that has already begun to dissipate. The pressure will be on ownership not just to remove Turner, but to dispatch General Manager AJ Smith as well.
What's worse is that the rumors will only intensify that the Chargers are likely to make a move to Los Angeles. The Chargers have suffered from poor fan attendance already, largely due to a feeling among the fan base that they are cheering on a team they are likely to lose. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy in a big way. The more it looks like they're leaving the fewer tickets they sell. The fewer tickets they sell, the more likely they are to leave.
For the Broncos, a loss on Sunday would mean a tougher path to the playoffs. They might no longer be in the discussion for the top two seedings, but be staring at a Wild Card berth instead. For San Diego it's all on the line. Everything. Is Sunday's game their Super Bowl? Maybe not if they win. But if they lose it will have been for sure.