After two mediocre/sub-mediocre seasons (7-9 in 2012 and 8-8 in 2011) the Chargers FINALLY got rid of A.J. Smith and Norv Turner, replacing them with Tom Telesco and former Broncos' Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy. Things couldn't get worse than consecutively progressively worse seasons coupled by the release of more stellar talent, could they? Already, the new GM failed to fill the one truly necessary spot on the team's roster in the draft (offensive left tackle) and the preseason has already demonstrated that the Chargers' problems of years past continue to plague them today; namely, the lack of an offensive line and turnovers.
Compounding the problem are the serious injuries already sustained by the team including #1 WR Danario Alexander (torn ACL), LB Melvin Ingram (torn ACL), S Brandon Taylor (torn ACL) and fifth-round pick CB Steve Williams (torn pectoral muscle) who are out for the season. Lesser (if they can be called such) injuries include WR Eddie Royal's bruised lung and concussion, WR Malcom Floyd's strained knee, and second-round pick LB Manti Te'o (sprained foot), each of which the Chargers and their fans hope heal before the start of the regular season.
Earlier this year I predicted that the Chargers would finish the 2013 season with another mediocre 8-8 record and I continue to hold onto that optimistic thought.
So here goes:
Week 1: September 9th vs. Houston (MNF)
With Houston's 12-4, division-winning season last year and playoff victory vs. Cincinnati--not to mention their 2-0 preseason start--I believe that the Texans will continue to build off last season's momentum and handily beat the Chargers on national television. The problematic offensive line will not be able to keep up with a tough Texans' defense led by J.J. Watt, Rivers does not play well under pressure, and the loss of key Chargers defensive players will make it extremely difficult for San Diego to stop both RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson.
Chargers lose 31-17
Week 2: September 15th at Philadelphia
Despite new head coach Chip Kelly's success at Oregon and the talent-laden Eagles, I think that it will take some time for the new offensive to fully mesh. However, the Chargers do not historically play well on the east coast. Nevertheless, given the Eagles' abysmal 4-12 season last year and the fact that San Diego will want to come back strong from a week one defeat, I think that the Chargers will overcome their east coast issues.
Interestingly, the last four teams to play in Philly's home opener have won the Super Bowl. Hmmmm.
Chargers win 27-24
Week 3: September 22nd at Tennessee
The Titans have been adept at pressuring opposing teams' quarterbacks; however, their weak secondary is also known for giving up big plays. Rivers has been known to make some pretty big plays in his time so this may fare well for San Diego. Tennessee did add WR Kevin Walter from Houston and TE Delanie Walker from San Francisco to give the Titans' offense some additional depth to RB Chris Johnson's impressiveness. However, the Chargers' defense was productive against the run last season so as long as Rivers isn't pressured too much then San Diego should defeat the Titans.
Chargers win 28-24
Week 4: September 29th vs. Dallas
In a battle of two teams with impressive talent and QBs who tend to choke in high-pressure situations, this game is a toss-up; however, being at home will give Rivers the extra edge in this game.
Chargers win 34-28
Week 5: October 6th at Oakland
The Chargers swept the hapless Raiders last season and given their loss of several key players and a swiss-cheese secondary, Rivers has the potential for a big game against his division rivals.
Chargers win 28-16
Week 6: October 14th vs. Indianapolis (MNF)
Yet another MNF game for San Diego (I still have nightmares about last season's MNF "double-header" vs. Denver). Colts' QB Andrew Luck now has veteran Mass Hasselbeck to mentor him and Indianapolis will definitely maintain the momentum from last season's 11-5 record, particularly with the frequent last-minute heroics of Luck. Whereas San Diego's WR core looked poised to make some big plays versus Indy's defense, injuries will be problematic. So will playing on Monday Night in a hostile, dome environment.
Chargers lose 34-27
Week 7: October 20th at Jacksonville
The Jaguars were horrid last season with a 2-14 record. Given their preseason play it doesn't appear that this team will improve much at all. As long as San Diego can stop Maurice Jones-Drew and not fall prey, once again, to its "sure win" losses then the Chargers should win this game.
Chargers win 34-17
Week 8: Bye
Thank goodness! Time to regroup, refresh, and reCHARGE!
Week 9: November 3rd at Washington
Despite keeping John Pagano as defensive coordinator, as mentioned, the Chargers lost several key defensive players to free agency or injury early this season and a healthy RGIII and RB Alfred Morris may just be too much for San Diego to handle. Compounding the problem is another east coast appearance. The Chargers also have issues coming off a bye week.
Chargers lose 28-24
Week 10: November 10th vs. Denver
The Chargers have historically owned Peyton Manning over the years (save for last season's MNF debacle) and will likely continue to have his number--at least in the first half of the game. However, Manning is the king of making adjustments and getting the job done as he did the entire second half of the 2012 season and into the playoffs before losing to Baltimore in a double-OT game. Further, the Broncos have added WR Wes Welker who can do just about anything except fly (although I wouldn't put it past him). Even with the loss of OLB Elvis Dumervil and an aging Champ Bailey (Welker and Bailey are both currently injured; however, these injuries do not seem to be serious) the Chargers simply cannot meet Manning's offensive output.
Chargers lose 35-24
Week 11: November 17th at Miami
The Dolphins spent a fortune on WR Mike Wallace in the offseason with the hopes of improving their offensive production; however, putting all of their proverbial eggs in one basket will not improve the team as a whole. Whereas Miami had a decent defense last season, many adept LBs are no longer on the team, thus giving San Diego additional help in establishing the run. The loss of TE Anthony Fasano who was a steady go-to guy will also hurt the Dolphins. As long as the Chargers' defense covers Miami's WRs--and Rivers doesn't make any huge mistakes--San Diego should be able to edge them out in a close game.
Chargers win 24-21
Week 12: November 24th at Kansas City
The Chargers did, in fact, sweep the Chiefs last season; however, the addition of head coach Andy Reid, QB Alex Smith, TE Anthony Fasano, WR Donnie Avery, and some new young talent have already improved the team on both sides of the ball. Additionally, given Reid's west coast offense and the Chargers' mediocre pass rush, Kansas City should be able to produce with the short pass. While S Eric Weddle is a beast, he will need help from other secondary players to stop the Chiefs' offensive. Another issue is that the Chiefs' can pressure opposing quarterbacks and with the Chargers' continued weakness on the left side and Rivers' poor decision-making skills--coupled with the hostile Kansas City atmosphere--will result in a Chargers' loss.
Chargers lose 31-24
Week 13: December 1st vs. Cincinnati
Rivers has been very strong in December in his career but versus a tough Bengals' team who went 10-6 and made the playoffs last season, the calendar and home-field advantage won't be enough to stop Cincinnati's offense or to produce well against its defense.
Chargers lose 27-21
Week 14: December 8th vs. New York Giants
The Giants were horrid on the road last season and rely heavily upon their defense forcing turnovers. The Chargers' questionable offensive line and Rivers' tendency to turn the ball over may work to New York's benefit; however, the home field advantage will weigh heavily on this game, particularly if the Chargers can protect the ball.
Chargers win 31-21
Week 15: December 12th at Denver (Thursday Night Football)
Another night game versus Denver. Let the nightmares abound.
Chargers lose 35-21
Week 16: December 22nd vs. Oakland
If San Diego is going to lose to Oakland it usually occurs at home. The Chargers always lose a game they are supposed to win and the Raiders always seem to find a way to win a game they have no business winning. Unfortunately for the Chargers, this will be that game for them both.
Chargers lose 30-23
Week 17: December 29th vs. Kansas City
By this time, Denver will have already handily won the division so this game will be meaningless for both teams in terms of playoffs or draft picks. Nevertheless, it is a division rivalry and the last home game for the Chargers and, thus, a matter of pride. If the Chargers win they will finish the season 8-8; an improvement over 2012.
Chargers win 28-24