SAN DIEGO — Eli Manning and the New York Giants are out of the way.
While rookie coach Mike McCoy is loath to discuss things such as playoffs, his players acknowledge they've got something to play for, even if they need some help.
Of course, it likely won't mean anything if they don't upset the Broncos in Denver on Thursday night.
"In my mind it's a playoff scenario for us," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said Monday, a day after they played perhaps their most complete game this season in routing the Giants 37-14.
"I can't wait. It's going to be a great challenge. As a competitor and an athlete in the NFL, these are the opportunities you want. We worked ourselves into a hole and we have to depend on other people, but the only thing we're focusing on is what we can control, and right now that's Denver."
The Chargers (6-7) forced three turnovers, including two interceptions by Manning, who spurned the Chargers in the days before the 2004 draft. The Chargers took him anyway with the No. 1 pick overall, and then swapped him to the Giants for Rivers and a handful of draft picks.
Two of Rivers' three touchdown passes went to Keenan Allen, who continues to blossom as a rookie. Allen has 61 catches — a club rookie record — 902 yards and five touchdowns.
The Chargers are as healthy as they've been all season, and even welcomed back outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in May.
Still, they've won only two of their past six games.
"This time of year is what's exciting," Johnson said. "Even though we are behind in the standings, we've still got a shot. We've got something to fight for. December football is what it's all about. It's cold. Even here it's cold. It's awesome. It's just a fun time of year. You're constantly looking at the rankings. You've got something to fight for even when you've barely got something. We've got a reason to go out there and fight and get after it."
The Chargers are down to a must-win game every week, and that's still no guarantee they'll get into the playoffs.
"Our season's on the line this week. It was on the line last week, I felt, and we didn't get it done," safety Eric Weddle said. "But we learned and we understand how serious it is. ... We still have that hope and belief and finally put it all together."
The Chargers lost 28-20 to the Broncos at home on Nov. 10. Manning threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns, and the Broncos led 28-6 after the opening drive of the second half.
Asked if the Chargers are better than when they lost to the Broncos, McCoy said: "If you look at yesterday's game, that is one of our better all-around games. Overall, in all three phases, guys were making plays. It was different guys. We might not have thrown for X number of yards, but (it's) the way we won the game. ... The last time we played them, we made a number of mistakes that hurt us. There were a number of things that happened where we made some critical mistakes. We have learned from those mistakes, but that is every game.
"I think, without a doubt, the way we have played at times this year, the players know we can win. We just have to do it more consistently," McCoy added.
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson