Who’s in charge of the NFL’s AFC West with three weeks to play? The 10-3 Chargers, who’ve won nine of 10 coming off a Week 3 loss to the Rams, are still looking up at 11-2 Kansas City. Add to that the Chiefs’ season-opening 38-28 win at StubHub Center in Carson over the Chargers. This Week 15 rematch at Arrowhead Stadium in K.C. (5:20 p.m., Channel 11) has a chance to figure out how the AFC will shake out, considering the Chiefs are also No. 1 in the conference (with New England at No. 2, Houston at No. 3 and Pittsburgh at No. 4 based on leading their respective divisions, which makes the Chargers at No. 5 and Baltimore at No. 6). The Chiefs, by virtue of a 27-24 OT win over Baltimore, have secured a playoff bid, and the Chargers can pretty much do the same with a win here. If the Chargers win on Thursday and draw even in the standings, the Chiefs would hold the tie-breaker at that moment with a better division record. The Chiefs would be 4-1, the Chargers 3-2.
If the Chiefs win on Thursday, they’ll clinch the division, having swept the season series with two games remaining, and then it will be a matter of getting the best seed possible.
Meanwhile, the 11-2 and NFC West secure Rams have another Sunday night prime-time contest against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (5:20 p.m., Channel 4) at the Coliseum. These two also faced off at the Coliseum in Week 14 last season, and the Eagles pulled away with a 43-35 win that was marked by Carson Wentz throwing for four TDs before he tore his left ACL and missed the rest of the season.
The end of Week 14:
* Minnesota at Seattle, Monday at 5:15 p.m., ESPN
The rest of Week 15:
* Houston at N.Y. Jets, Saturday at 1:30 p.m., NFL Network
* Cleveland at Denver, Saturday at 5:20 p.m., NFL Network
* New England at Pittsburgh, Sunday at 1:25 p.m., Channel 2
* Dallas at Indianapolis, Sunday at 10 a.m., Channel 11
* Oakland at Cincinnati, Sunday at 10 a.m., Channel 2
Alas, and at last, the Clippers no longer have the most glossy record in the NBA’s Western Conference – they’ve actually fallen to fourth, at 16-9 (.640) after dropping their last two. But the beast in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors of Toronto (21-7, despite losing back-to-back games at New Jersey and against Milwaukee) come back across the border for a Staples Center appearance with Kawhi Leonard (26.4 points a game) and Kyle Lowery (10.1 assists a game) on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket). in the NBA Western Conference may or may not have the best record in the NBA’s Western Conference when they have their home meet-and-greet against the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors, which includes a visit from Kawaii Leonard (at Staples Center, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket). Lowery went scoreless against the Bucks and is 4-for-28 shooting his last four games.
Also this week for the Clippers:
* At Phoenix, Monday at 6 p.m., Prime Ticket
* At San Antonio, Thursday at 5:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
* At Oklahoma City, Saturday at 6 p.m., Prime Ticket
Is there anyone on the Miami Heat that LeBron James remembers playing with during those NBA Final runs? Oh, right. Dwayne Wade. His best friend. The 16-10 Lakers have a home game against the Heat (Monday, 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet) before a break and then a four-game, six-day trip:
The rest of the week for the Lakers:
* At Houston, Thursday at 5 p.m., TNT
* At Charlotte, Saturday at 4 p.m., SSN
* At Washington, Sunday at 3 p.m., SSN
It must be first semester finals week, because many are laying low in the college basketball world, or only playing once this week.
* UCLA vs. Belmont, at Pauley Pavilion, Saturday at 2 p.m., Pac-12 Network
*USC at Oklahoma, Saturday at 6 p.m., ESPNU
* Long Beach State at Pacific, Monday at 7 p.m.
* Cal State Northridge vs. Pacific at Matadome, Saturday at 3 p.m.
* Loyola Marymount at Portland State, Saturday at 7 p.m.
* Pepperdine at Southern Utah, Saturday at noon
Saturday: Gonzaga at North Carolina, 4 p.m., ESPN2; Villanova at Kansas, 9 a.m., ESPN; Utah at Kentucky, 2 p.m., ESPN2; Arizona State at Georgia, 3 p.m., SEC Network; Virginia Tech vs. Washington at Atlantic City, N.J., 4 p.m., ESPNU; Baylor at Arizona, 8 p.m., ESPN2
The last time neither USC nor UCLA qualified as one of the 70-something invitees for a college football bowl game: 2010, but it comes with an asterisk. The Trojans’ 8-5 finish under Lane Kiffin was a bowl probation period (as was his 10-2 finish in 2011), yet the Bruins couldn’t capitalize with a 4-8 mark under Rick Neuheisel in his next-to-last year. On a level (poor) playing field, 1999 was the last time both were too miserable to make it. UCLA was 4-7 under Bob Toledo following up a Rose Bowl appearance. USC was 6-6 under Paul Hackett – did that make them eligible? – in his second, and next-to-last, season before Pete Carroll arrived.
We are also reminded of the very odd 2001 season: USC finished 6-6 with Carroll and somehow went to (and won) the Las Vegas Bowl. UCLA actually had a better record at 7-4 under Toledo and was ranked as high as No. 4 nationally after starting 6-0. Then the Bruins lost four in a row, including 29-0 to USC, won its last game against ASU at home, and declined a bowl invitation when only the Humanitarian and Silicon Valley bowls came asking. UCLA felt it would actually be losing money by accepting either of those trips. Jeepers.
Thus, this 39-game college football bowl season begins with a half-dozen lob tosses that includes participation trophies for the Pac 12 South’s second-best team Arizona State, Sun Belt Conference winner Appalachian State and Mountain West champion Fresno State, which, at No. 21, is the only CFP poll Top 25 team in action this early.
Did you know: There were four eligible teams that didn’t get an invite to the Free Goodie Bag season: Bow your heads for Southern Miss (6-5), Miami of Ohio (6-6), Wyoming (6-6 after closing the season with four straight wins) and Louisiana-Monroe (6-6). Sounds like a nice little four-team NIT tournament should take place. In Hawaii.
How the first week of bowls play out:
* Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl at Atlanta: North Carolina A&T (9-2) vs. Alcorn State (9-3), 9 a.m., Channel 7
* New Mexico Bowl at Albuquerque: North Texas (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2), 11 a.m., ESPN
* Cure Bowl at Orlando, Fla.: Tulane (6-6) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (7-6), 11:30 a.m., CBSSN
* Las Vegas Bowl: Fresno State (11-2) vs. Arizona State (7-5), 12:30 p.m., Channel 7
*Camelia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.: Georgia Southern (9-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (7-5), 2:30 p.m., ESPN
* New Orleans Bowl: Middle Tennessee (8-5) vs. Appalachian State (10-2), 6 p.m., ESPN
The kids are screaming to go see Disney On Ice. So they’ve reserved Staples Center for eight shows over four nights (Dec. 13-16) and then skip over to Honda Center for 11 more shows between Dec. 19 and 23. Say so long to the local NHL teams, who aren’t in the production numbers.
Thus, before a Christmas Eve/Christmas Day break, the Kings play six of the their next seven games on the road between Dec. 10-23. The first four are within six days in not-such-great-weather towns this time of year:
The Kings this week:
* At Detroit, Monday at 4:30 p.m., FSW
* At Buffalo, Tuesday at 4 p.m., FSW
* At Columbus, Thursday at 4 p.m., FSW
* At Pittsburgh, Saturday at 4 p.m., FSW
The Ducks this week:
* At Honda Center in Anaheim vs. Dallas, Wednesday at 7 p.m., Prime Ticket
* At Columbus, Saturday at 4 p.m., Channel 13