When the NFL instituted a 17th game in 2021, they were hoping for as much drama ahead of the playoffs as possible, but this isn't the kind they'd like. With both the AFC and NFC enjoying an intriguing logjam of playoff contenders heading into Week 18, the conversation surrounding who owns tiebreakers on whom takes center stage all over the league, but especially in the AFC, where the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders find themselves staring at one of the strangest potential scenarios in NFL history -- with the Jacksonville Jaguars and two other AFC teams being the keys that might unlock the door to chaos.
For if the Jaguars find a way to upset the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (stranger things have happened this season), both the Chargers and Raiders could qualify for the playoffs, but only if their primetime matchup Sunday night ends in a tie.
Of course, that scenario immediately thrust forward the potential that both clubs would simply spend 60 football minutes taking alternating knees to guarantee the tie and, as such, their respective playoff berths. That won't happen, though, according to Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.
"That's a pretty loaded scenario," Staley said on "The Rich Eisen Show" this week. "That is an all-time coffee shop scenario. I feel like I'm with my buddies at the University of Dayton. I think we all respect the game and the NFL shield and the integrity of this game far too much to be complicit in something like that.
"This game matters too much to too many people, and we want to play our best and be proud of the result one way or another. We're going to do everything we can to go win this game, and play the way we're capable of playing. I hope all the fans and everybody who loves the NFL will be proud of the game on Sunday."
So, no, the Chargers won't choose violence this weekend -- at least not of the social media slang variety. Instead, they'll suit up and do their best to make sure they get into the playoffs and the Raiders don't, something interim head coach Rich Bisaccia is undoubtedly geared up to try and turn the tables on. That doesn't mean the scenario of a four-quarter kneel fest won't continue to float in the imaginations of many until/unless it either isn't possible or doesn't happen, but don't go betting on it.
"What makes it so special is the competition," Staley said, "And the level of integrity and respect that it stands for."
That, and the fact taking a knee for two halves would would open up both teams to what might be severe punishment from league commissioner Roger Goodell, who could look to use "conduct detrimental" as justification for what hammer he drops. No matter how you spin the pigskin, if it's a tie you want between the Chargers and Raiders, it'll be organic.
But, again, it first has to be made to matter.