LOS ANGELES, DEC. 30 -- The Los Angeles Raiders today completed an amazing month with -- what else? -- a comeback victory. Now they can relax for a week and enjoy their division championship.

For the first time in five years, they made the playoffs.

With a field goal and touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, they beat the San Diego Chargers, 17-12, to avoid a wild-card game at Miami and secure a home date in the first round of the playoffs on the weekend of Jan. 12-13.

And, perhaps of greater importance, the Raiders (12-4), in producing their seventh come-from-behind victory, repelled the challenge of the Kansas City Chiefs (11-5), who defeated Chicago, 21-10, Saturday to put the Raiders in a win-or-be-a-wild-card situation.

"That's a big difference," Los Angeles and former Redskins quarterback Jay Schroeder said of his team's forthcoming week of recuperation. "I've been on both sides. There's a big difference playing two games {before the Super Bowl} rather than three."

It wasn't until Schroeder found former DeMatha High star Steve Smith open in the left flat for a 17-yard touchdown that the 62,593 spectators at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum began to celebrate.

And, after San Diego's last drive stalled with less than a minute remaining, so ended the Raiders' five-game "miniseason," as proclaimed by Coach Art Shell after a 27-24 loss to the Chiefs on Nov. 25. As it turned out, Los Angeles' 5-0 record in December was just enough to win the division.

"It wasn't the prettiest game, but we did today what champions have to do: find a way to win," Shell said. "We didn't back into the thing. We won outright."

As accommodating as the Chargers were -- not only did they start rookie quarterback John Friesz; running back Marion Butts (1,225 yards) and lineman Burt Grossman (10 1/2 sacks) missed the game with injuries -- Los Angeles found itself struggling against a team it routed on the road, 24-9, in October.

Before the Schroeder-to-Smith pass, San Diego (6-10) was on the verge of an upset made possible by its stingy defense, John Carney's two field goals, Friesz's touchdown pass and Ron Bernstine's running.

The Chargers seemed to be ignoring the Chiefs and others who criticized San Diego for giving Friesz his first NFL start in a game with playoff implications.

"Somebody coming in like he did can be the best thing for a team," Los Angeles defensive tackle Bob Golic said. "And as far as being fair to Kansas City. . . . life's like that sometimes."