Considering options at kicker, Chargers should stick with Nick Novak

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn gave his players the weekend off after his team’s impressive 28-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Winners of five of their past seven games, the Chargers are back in the AFC postseason conversation at 5-6, only a half-game behind the final AFC wild-card position currently occupied by the Baltimore Ravens at 5-5.

The Chargers are also just a game-and-a-half behind the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs (6-4).

So, who should Chargers fans be rooting for this weekend? The Chargers hold the tiebreaker over the Buffalo Bills (5-5), so a Buffalo win over Kansas City would bring the Chiefs back to just a one-game lead over the Chargers, with the Bolts playing the Chiefs on the road in three weeks.

The Denver Broncos (3-7) defeating the Oakland Raiders (4-6) would put the Chargers a game ahead of both of those teams. And the Chargers play the Raiders in the season finale, giving Los Angeles the opportunity to earn the tiebreaker by defeating Oakland twice this season.

Chargers fans also should be rooting the Tennessee Titans (6-4) losing on the road to the Indianapolis Colts (3-7); the Miami Dolphins (4-6) losing on the road to the New England Patriots (8-2); and the Houston Texans (4-6) winning on the road against the Ravens.

With this weekend's rooting interests settled, let’s take a look at two questions from this week’s mailbag:

@eric_d_williams: I had a lot of questions understandably about the kicking situation after Nick Novak's struggles due to a back injury on Thursday.

But there’s not much out there, to be honest. ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates reported that the Chargers brought in Younghoe Koo (the undrafted rookie whom the Bolts cut earlier this season), Andrew Franks and Jason Myers for tryouts Oct. 27 when Novak dealt with an ankle injury.

All three of those kickers remain available. Nick Folk also is available, but he was cut earlier this season by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after replacing Roberto Aguayo, the second-round selection who flamed out for the Bucs.

Yes, Aguayo is still available. He’s currently on the practice squad of the Carolina Panthers.

That said, the Chargers' best option is to stick with Novak and hope he gets healthy. Although he has made just 9-of-13 field goals this season (69 percent), for his career Novak has made 82 percent of his field goals -- and even more important has competed in the playoffs and performed well, making 8 of his 9 postseason field goal attempts.

If the Chargers accomplish what they want and get into the playoffs, they need a kicker who’s been there before.

Lynn seemed to agree with that assessment when asked about Novak on Friday.

“We want Nick here,” Lynn said. “Nick is a guy we brought in, and he’s been doing a decent job up until now. He brings a veteran presence, and if he’s ready to go, we’re fine with Nick. If he’s not, then obviously we’ll have to have some people in here and try them out.”

@eric_d_williams: Along with finding a developmental quarterback, drafting an offensive tackle should be a priority for the Chargers in next year’s draft.

The Chargers signed Russell Okung to a four-year, $53 million deal this offseason, which included $25 million in guaranteed money. Some NFL observers considered the contract a steep price to pay for Okung, but so far it’s proved to be a wise investment, as Okung has played at a Pro Bowl level this season.

However, Okung is 30 years old and the Chargers need to consider drafting his eventual replacement.

Along with Okung, Joe Barksdale turns 30 in January and has been dealing with a lingering foot issue all season, so the Chargers could use some young talent at the tackle position.