The playoff picture is shaping up in the NFL, but LA Chargers (6-2) are making a strong case as a dark-horse candidate with a mid-season surge after winning five games in a row thanks to the leadership of QB Phil Rivers.

LA Chargers
The LA Chargers won five straight and are quietly making a run in the AFC West. (Image: Jake Roth/USA Today)

Four squads emerged as the proverbial teams to beat in the playoffs including New Orleans Saints (7-1), LA Rams (8-1), New England Patriots (7-2) and Kansas City Chiefs (8-1). However, no one is talking about the LA Chargers.

Underrated Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers might be the fourth most popular football team in Southern California. The Rams are 8-1 and the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl at +250. The USC Trojans have always been the toast of Hollywood. Plus, these days soccer is very popular in California, which means the LA Galaxy get lot of attention from the local media and fans.

The Chargers have an uphill battle to get attention in their own city.  This is also a big sports town where the LA Dodgers recently made their second consecutive trip to the World Series. Do not forget there’s not one, but two professional basketball teams in SoCal and the most famous athlete in the world, LeBron James, happens to play on one of them.

Rivers and Gordon, the Rodney Dangerfields of the NFL

If anything, the Chargers are one of the most underrated teams in the NFL, let alone in the City of Angels. Phil Rivers should be one of the most recognizable faces in Tinsel Town, but he’s just another face in the crowd.

Despite all the indirect disrespect, the LA Chargers are one of the hottest teams in the NFL and they’re flying under the radar. Phil Rivers (19 TD, 3 INT) is having an outstanding year and he’s only thrown one pick in his last four games.

Although Todd Gurley is getting a significant amount of hype (and rightfully so), Melvin Gordon should also be mentioned in the same breath as his crosstown counterpart. Gordon rushed for 7 touchdowns this season and caught 3 more.

The Chargers recently improved to 14-1 odds to win the Super Bowl.

NFC: LA Rams vs. New Orleans Saints

The NFC Championship is looking like it will come down to the top two teams: Rams and Saints. The Saints took down the Rams in Week 9. Despite losing their first game of the season, the Rams continued to be the favorite to win the Super Bowl.

The Saints won seven in a row, but have the defending champion Eagles visiting New Orleans next weekend. The last three weeks of the season includes two division games with the Panthers and a home game against the Steelers in Week 16. Saints QB extraordinaire Drew Brees thought he’d have newly-acquired free agent Dez Bryant to throw to, but Bryant suffered an unfortunate injury in practice.

The Rams face the Chiefs in LA next week. Then there’s games against the Bears and Eagles, that should not pose a huge threat to the Rams. A 6-1 clip seems well within reason to finish the season at 14-2.

AFC: New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The AFC Championship game might come down to a rematch of Week 6. Although the Bell-less Steelers are on a five-game winning streak, the Patriots and the Chiefs are the top two teams in the AFC. They battled in Week 6, but the Patriots prevailed with a 43-40 victory at home.

The Chiefs have a better record with only one loss. If they can stay ahead of the Patriots, they will lock up home field advantage in the playoffs, which offers up a tremendous edge.

The Pats are going to try to win the rest of their games, which seems likely with the last remnants of a soft AFC East schedule. Everyone in New England thinks their squad is a lock for the Super Bowl, but it boils down to home field. Where will the AFC title game play out? Foxboro? Or Arrowhead?

The Chiefs have two tough games against LA-based teams. They battle the Rams next weekend in Los Angeles. Then they host the Chargers at home during Week 15. The Rams game will inevitably determine home field advantage. If the Chiefs can win that game and lock up home games throughout the playoffs, then they’ll have an inside track to the Super Bowl over the Pats.

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