Thoughts on the Chargers' 34-7 victory over the 49ers on Thursday night in San Diego:
What it means: The Chargers put heat on first-place Kansas City and third-place Oakland with this Thursday night special. The Chargers -- who have won six of their past seven games and have lost just one December game since 2005 -- are 8-6. Kansas City is 8-5 heading into a game in St. Louis on Sunday. Oakland is 6-7 heading into a home game against Denver. If the Chargers win their final two games and the Chiefs stumble once in their final three games, the Chargers will win their fifth straight AFC West title. If the Raiders win their final three games, they’ll need San Diego to lose at least once regardless of what Kansas City does to stay in the division picture.
Memo to AFC: Root for the Chiefs: The rest of the AFC should be worried after what the Chargers showed the past four days. San Diego has a balanced attack, and it plays shutdown defense. The Chargers have been near the top of the NFL in total offense and total defense the entire season. The special teams issues have been cleaned up for the most part, and San Diego isn’t killing itself with dumb mistakes. When they are clicking, the Chargers are as strong as any team in the NFL. If San Diego squeezes by the Chiefs to win the division, it will be a major threat in the AFC. Fans of any team in the AFC should ask themselves this: Do you want your team playing San Diego in January? I don’t think so. On any given day, San Diego can hang with New England and Pittsburgh in the postseason.
Tomorrow’s talker: San Diego’s defense is honed in. The 49ers didn’t score until late in the game. The Chargers almost went two games without allowing a point. San Diego shut out Kansas City, 31-0, in Week 14. That’s a whole lot of dominating in a four-day stretch.
Welcome back, Mr. Jackson: San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson showed what kind of impact he can have on this offense. In his third game back from his holdout, the 2009 Pro Bowl player was tremendous. He caught three touchdown passes. With star tight end Antonio Gates missing four of the past six games -- including the past two games -- with a nagging foot injury, Jackson gives quarterback Philip Rivers another go-to option down the stretch. Jackson will probably leave as a free agent after the season. But a performance like this may make the Chargers at least think about a long-term deal or perhaps even franchise him in the offseason. He is a tremendous weapon.
Trending: Rivers kept his pass total under 30 and, once again, the Chargers won. In each of the Chargers’ six losses, Rivers threw more than 30 times. Rivers completed 19 of 25 passes for 273 yards. He was brilliant.
What’s next: The Chargers have two games remaining, both on the road. They play at Cincinnati on Dec. 26 on 10 days' rest and then close out the season in Denver. The Bengals and Broncos have a combined 5-21 record.