Welcome to Week 16.
Here are five final thoughts ahead of the Chargers-Colts matchup:
1. Win and in
The Chargers can clinch a playoff spot Monday night.
The Bolts currently hold the No. 6 seed in the AFC and will be in if they win. The Chargers are in a position to clinch due to losses by the Jets, Patriots and Raiders in Week 16.
Derwin James, Jr., summed up the mindset of the Bolts with three games left.
"There's no better feeling when you control your own destiny and don't have to look over your shoulder or be fans of other teams," James said. "We just have to play. If we win them all, we'll be in. [Clinching] don't even matter. Just win this one and win the next one."
Even with a playoff berth likely in the coming weeks, the Bolts are instead focused on themselves and playing their best ball this time of year.
Remember, the Chargers were 8-6 a year ago and missed the playoffs. They are determined to not repeat the same story.
"You have to learn from those mistakes. It didn't go our way last year. We lost a couple there at the end and we, unfortunately, didn't make the playoffs," said quarterback Justin Herbert. "That's the whole purpose of playing football right now — to be able to extend your season and to play well after what you're guaranteed.
"Obviously, it was a tough, tough year last year, but you have to look at the film," Herbert added. "You have to see what you did wrong. You have to make those games happen in December and November, when it matters most, and especially January. We have another great opportunity this year."
The Bolts sole focus is on the Colts this week. It will be Chargers sixth primetime game of the season.
"Nothing is better than December football," Matt Feiler said. "That's when you see which teams are really going to push through and make the playoffs."
2. What to make of the Colts?
On one hand, the Colts are a team that led 33-0 at halftime against a double-digit win team last week.
On the other, the Colts are a team that got outscored 39-3 the rest of the way and allowed the largest comeback in NFL history.
How are the Bolts looking at the Colts ahead of Monday night?
"Obviously, they had the biggest comeback of all time last week, but watching that first half, they looked like a really, really good team," Allen said. "We have to come out and fight. It's going to be a dogfight. We just have to make sure we handle business."
Staley said: "We're going to be prepared for their best because they have a lot of good coaches and players on their football team. All you have to do is watch the game film and watch them compete every time that they play. Their guys play extremely hard, and they have a lot of good players. We're expecting a really tough game on Monday night."
The Colts fired their head coach last month and could end up with a Top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. But this group also defeated Kansas City earlier this season.
But Tranquill noted that teams who have already been eliminated from playoff contention are dangerous this time of year.
"They're a team with a bunch of competitors, just like we are," Tranquill said. "Whenever you have a tough game like that, you always tend to bounce back strong. I would anticipate them coming out and playing hard.
"The reality is that their situation isn't what they want it to be," Tranquill added. "But you have a lot of guys playing for their jobs, playing for their futures. Coaches coaching for their jobs and future. We're going to have to play some good football to beat them."
3. Foles returns to the field
When Nick Foles trots onto the field Monday night, it will be his first game action in exactly one calendar year.
Not that the Colts quarterback has been hurt or anything. He just hasn't played.
And Foles, who was named the started earlier this week, even said he hadn't taken any reps with the first-team offense before a few days ago.
But the Bolts know what Foles is capable of. After all, he is a former Super Bowl MVP.
"You just know that he has a lot of experience. He has made a lot of winning plays and you have full respect for what he has accomplished in the league," Staley said. "The reason why he has been in the league so long is because he is a quality player.
"They obviously feel like he is a good enough player to be starting in this football game. I know that I have had a ton of respect for him from afar and he has our players' full respect because many of them have competed against him," Staley added. "We're going to need to be at our best because he has seen a lot, seen a lot of looks, knows that offense inside and out. We're going to have to play at a high level on Monday."
Tranquill said he expects Indianapolis to run a similar offense to what they've shown all season.
But it will just be a different guy throwing the ball.
"He's got a ton of previous tape with his former teams," Tranquill said. "And they're not going to change too much offensively.
"I would expect for him to have some routes within their plan and within their tree that he's comfortable with," Tranquill added. "We'll be able to study that from his time in Philadelphia and Chicago, Jacksonville. Our coaches will do a good job of having us ready."
Foles, who has thrown for 14,003 career yards and 82 touchdowns, will make the 57th start of his career.
4. Gilman earning more playing time
Nasir Adderley and Alohi Gilman have been two of the Bolts best players in the past two games, leading key defensive efforts from the back end.
But with James set to return in primetime, one will have to come out, right?
Staey said he envisions a scenario where all three could be on the field for the defense.
"You're going to see all three of them in the game. Nasir and Alohi have both earned the opportunity to play," Staley said. "We're going to play all three of them — Derwin, obviously, but Alohi and Nas are both playing well for us, and we see them both as starters for us."
Gilman has been especially present of late, especially on the first play of the last two games.
Against Miami, he knocked away a deep pass for Tyreek Hill on the first play of the game.
And against the Titans, he was in tight coverage and allowed just a 2-yard gain to begin the game.
Gilman might not start this week, but he's certainly made an impression on everyone this season.
"He has provided us with a lot of energy out there. He's very calm. He's a commander back there," Staley said. "I think that the guys like playing with him because he has a real command of our defense and the scouting report. He's a connector back there. He's an energy guy.
"He was a captain at Notre Dame. You can see that he has a lot of those leadership characteristics. He has a lot of the gameday energy that you need within a football team. He has made plays for us. He has tackled extremely well," Staley added. "He has taken good angles in the deep part of the field when he has been challenged. He has been around the football. That is what you need when you're an NFL safety; you need to be able to do all of those things."
5. Matt Feiler rolls on
There have been a number of moving parts along the Chargers offensive line this season.
But thanks to Feiler, left guard has had a steady presence for all 992 offensive snaps.
Feiler is the only Chargers player on the entire team to play every snap at his respective position this season.
The 30-year-old barely even took any credit for his streak when it was brought up this week.
"Taking care of my body, and kind of just luck, really," Feiler said. "An injury can happen on any snap.
"[Being durable] has helped me get to where I'm at today," Feiler added. "I think a lot of it just has to do with luck."
Feiler has now played all 2,112 snaps since joining the Chargers as a free agent in the spring of 2021.
"He's just a warrior. He's one of those guys that's been through a lot. He's a veteran," said Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi. "You know what you're getting from them, and that's a good thing. A steady presence up there, up front, and durable. He's a real important piece."
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