Rancho Santa Fe Sports

Jay Paris: Chargers looking to lasso another unlikely playoff win

There are big doings in Denver this weekend and all the best in trying to locate a vacated hotel room.

Events like this are special, a real opportunity to say “I was there’’ to friends and family.

Jealous, you bet your buddies will be when showing your prized ticket stub to the National Western Stockshow and Rodeo?

Oh yeah, there’s a little football game hogging the headlines in the Mile High City, too.

Saddle up, pardner, because the Chargers’ season continues to have plenty of giddy up. They’ve got a Sunday date with the Denver Broncos, the AFC’s top-seed in the playoffs, and wager against them at your own risk.

I’ve got crow feathers stuck between my teeth from doubting the Chargers.

The Bengals have lightning bolts across their backs, after being eliminated by the Chargers last Sunday.

The Broncos? They’re still smarting from that recent Thursday night visit when the Chargers made Denver’s Peyton Manning look old while giving their season a fresh glow.

Guess what? The odds makers are again finding fault in the Chargers, and we’re not talking about Philip Rivers’ choice of ties.

The Chargers keep your stomach in knots because they keep turning the NFL upside down. They’ll jog onto Sports Authority Field as a 10-point underdog, with the Las Vegas smarty-pants still not impressed.

Maybe they shouldn’t be. Maybe they grade the Chargers’ squad and figure the Broncos’ explosive offense will bring the Bolts back to earth with a jolt.

Maybe they look at Manning and see everything the opposite of the Bengals’ Andy Dalton: a smart, experienced quarterback not prone to the mental errors, which led to Cincinnati’s crash-and-burn.

But if they look closely, it’s no longer about rosters, but confidence.

“I think all that matters in a football game is that your team believes in you,’’ Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “That is the most important thing. As soon as people don’t believe, you are playing with two strikes against you. You cannot worry about going on the road or being an underdog or anything like that.’’

This is no longer about rings around the Chargers’ trunks as a faith that the roots are strong enough to withstand those winds of adversity.

This is no longer about a rookie head coach, but one leading a savvy staff that isn’t outsmarted often.

Plus the Chargers are playing loose, as if it’s a pickup, two-hand touch game down at the park. Sure the stakes are higher than who buys the post-game beverages, but the Chargers, to borrow a baseball phrase, are a tough out.

No AFC team can match their five-game winning streak.

No AFC team can point to winning at Philadelphia, Denver, Kansas City and Cincinnati.

No AFC has added an impact defensive player in the last month, like the Chargers did with linebacker Melvin Ingram.

And the Chargers’ belief isn’t false bravado. Not after playing keep-away from the Broncos in that season-turning, 27-20 conquest last month in the shadows of the Rockies.

But prevailing two straight times in Denver won’t be easy, and really, the Chargers, seeded sixth, shouldn’t win.

Then again…

“They’re a No. 1 seed for a reason,’’ Rivers said. “This is a heck of a team and it’s rare to play an opponent three times in a season and being a division opponent, one we know well, they know us well. It’s going to be awesome.”

We think Rivers was talking about the AFC Divisional Game. But for someone with an affection for bolo ties, cowboy boots and western-style shirts, maybe it’s the rodeo which caught his eye.

One thing we know: we’ll be watching on Sunday and so will the rest of the NFL.

Jay Paris can be heard talking Chargers football on 1090 AM on Monday and Friday mornings. He’s also the Wednesday morning co-host of “Hacksaw and Company.” He can be reached at jparis8@aol.com and followed on Twitter @jparis_sports.