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The Buffalo Bills are aware they are playing a team that bottomed out in embarrassing fashion and fired the coach and general manager after its latest outing.

But the Bills are desperate in their hunt for a playoff spot, so they insist they won’t be taking the Los Angeles Chargers lightly when the teams battle Saturday night in Inglewood, Calif.

Buffalo is one of five teams in the AFC with an 8-6 record and would be on the outside of the playoffs if the season ended today. Also complicating matters is that the Bills sit two games behind the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East.

“Every game from here on out’s a playoff game for us,” Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen said. “That’s the mentality that we have. It’s essentially win or go home. We’ve got to be prepared for every punch the Chargers can throw at us.”

The Bills have won consecutive games and coach Sean McDermott has cautioned his team all week about what can happen if preparation for the game isn’t taken seriously.

“If you’re not on your ‘A’ game, it shows up rather quickly,” McDermott said. “And then you head to the buses with sour faces.”

The Chargers (5-9) were loaded with bitter faces when they were annihilated 63-21 by the Las Vegas Raiders on Dec. 14.

It was such a poor performance that the club fired coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco the following morning.

Veteran assistant coach Giff Smith will serve as interim coach for the remainder of the season. He admitted the beating administered by the Raiders wasn’t fun.

“It was embarrassing to everybody involved in it,” said Smith, who was the outside linebackers coach. “I take that with me, since I’m the man in charge now. We’re moving past that.

“We have three weeks to show the character of the men and the coaching staff that we are, to go out there and compete. That’s what we’re looking to do, compete and try to win these next three games.”

The Chargers have dropped five of their past six games, and their fortunes are low with star quarterback Justin Herbert done for the season after finger surgery on his throwing hand.

Easton Stick made his first career start against the Raiders and passed for 257 yards and three touchdowns. However, he also was intercepted once and lost two fumbles.

“Emotionally, you just want to burn it, for sure, but there’s a benefit to going back and watching it,” Stick said of the tape of his starting debut. “As bad as it felt, there are positives that you can take from it and things you have to learn from, obviously, and improve. We put the ball on the ground, I did twice, and that can’t happen.”

Los Angeles could be without star receiver Keenan Allen (heel) for the second straight game. He didn’t practice on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Allen has a league-high 108 receptions while accumulating 1,243 yards and seven touchdowns.

Chargers cornerback Deane Leonard (heel) also missed the week’s first two practices.

Buffalo has received a recent boost from running back James Cook, who rushed for a career-best 179 yards in a 31-10 rout of the visiting Dallas Cowboys last weekend. Cook averaged 7.2 yards per rush and scored on a 24-yard run. He also had two catches for 42 yards and a score.

Cook, who has rushed for 968 yards on the season, has racked up 684 yards (462 rushing, 222 receiving) over the past five games.

“He’s just a hell of a player,” Buffalo tight end Dawson Knox said of Cook. “He’s got crazy vision, too, so he’s going to bounce it wherever he sees it.”

Cook (illness) was added to the injury report on Wednesday. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (wrist) also sat out practice.

Buffalo defeated the visiting Chargers 27-17 in 2020 after losing the previous four meetings.

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