After a phenomenal 2009 season, the San Diego Chargers have been trending the wrong way, which ultimately led to the firing of Norv Turner. In order to get back to being the team that was constantly above .500, there's one thing that the Chargers need to be: consistent.
Game in and game out, they need to be more consistent on both sides of the ball, at every position. We've hit on how depth is an issue, but if the Chargers starters can be consistent, and consistently execute, there's a chance to be playing well into January. Especially with it being a top–heavy conference that features an abundance of average teams with plenty of flaws.
The schedule is interesting, and actually sets up nicely for San Diego. Looking at the schedule, it appears that the Chargers will be favored in 6-7 games. So if they want to make the playoffs, they'll have to "upset" a team or two, or win 2-3 games they're not expected to.
According to Vegas, the over/under on the Chargers win total is set at 7.5. What that implies is that a record of 7-9, 6-10, or 8-8 is extremely likely. Outliers do exist (like last year's Colts team), but the expected win total is somewhere between 6-8.
What stands out to me, is that the teams on the schedule are incredibly fallible. The Chargers' 2013 schedule includes 8 teams with quarterbacks that are average, at best. In addition, the other teams on the schedule match up very well to the Chargers' strengths.
This might sound optimistic. Believe me, I know the Chargers have their issues, they're very far removed from the 13-3 team they were 4 years ago. My record prediction is more of me doubting the teams on the schedule, than it is believing in San Diego to be that much better.
All of our predictions are assuming normal injury luck, for both the Chargers & other teams on the schedule.
- Home Losses: Texans, Cowboys, Broncos, Bengals, Giants
- Road Losses: Broncos, Chiefs
- Home Wins: Colts, Raiders, Chiefs
- Road Wins: Eagles, Redskins, Dolphins, Titans, Raiders, Jaguars
Predicted final record: 9-7.
Blind Optimism? No. Am I crazy? Maybe. Is home–field–advantage overrated in the regular season? Yes. Outside of the Chiefs and Denver I don't think there's a team on the schedule that actually has an advantage when playing at their respective home. It might seem ludicrous to expect the Chargers to go 6-2 on the road, but here's why they can, and will.
Look at the quarterbacks whom the Chargers play on the road: Michael Vick, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Jake Locker, Terrell Pryor/Matt Flynn, Blaine Gabbert. Not to mention, each of those defenses aren't exactly keeping Ken Whisenhunt up at night. So I factor in both of those factors, to go along with the lack of pass rush by each time and each have question marks on their offensive line. I'd be surprised if they dropped any of those games.
The home schedule is brutal, there's no way around that. The Texans are one of the better teams in the league. The Cowboys offense will be really hard to stop. If you have a TV, then you know what the Broncos are capable of. The Bengals have an even more talented roster than the Broncos. By the time the Chargers face the Giants, New York will be playing for their season, so I'll side with Eli.
If the Chargers can squeak out and win just one of those home losses I predicted, this can be a playoff team. Again, I think if they execute, like they're capable of doing, this team can surprise. This is not me being a homer, this is as much an objective prediction as I can provide.
The AFC is bad, really bad. I think San Diego benefits from that. The playoffs are a toss up.
- Home Losses: Texans, Cowboys*, Broncos, Bengals
- Road Losses: Eagles*, Redskins, Dolphins*, Chiefs*, Broncos
- Home Wins: Colts*, Giants*, Raiders, Chiefs*
- Road Wins: Titans, Raiders, Jaguars
* = Close game
Predicted final record: 7-9; 3-4 in close games
I added the "Close Games" as my guesses for the closest games the Chargers will be playing. The record in those games is the answer to whether the Chargers have a playoff chance or top–10 draft pick. Of course, I’m also presuming the quality of opponent, that the Chargers will lose every game against a "higher" quality opponent, and defeat every "lower" quality opponent.
- Home Losses: Texans, Bengals, Colts, Giants, Denver
- Road Losses: Eagles, The Capital City of America who has a team with an offensive name, Dolphins, Broncos, Chiefs
- Home Wins: Raiders, Chiefs, Cowboys
- Road Wins: Titans, Raiders, Jaguars
Predicted Final Record: 6-10
The Chargers look better this year. The defense has top 10 potential, Mathews looks more comfortable than he has in his entire career, and Whiz’s scheme fits the new Rivers/OL reality in a way that Norv’s never could.
Unfortunately, their competition (outside of the woeful, sad–to–look–at–yet–enjoyable–to–watch–collapse–in–a–burning–pile–of–canine–excrement Raiders) is also much better. A few of the road coin-flips didn't go our way, with long trips to DC and Miami. Denver looks damn near unbeatable at home, KC is always a tough game on the road, Chip Kelly is going to be difficult to figure out by Week 2, etc.
I think the team is better than this record, but depth issues and a tough schedule will combine to put them in 3rd place in the AFC West, ahead of only the Raiders, who might lose 16 games.
- Home Losses: Texans, Cowboys, Colts, and Bengals.
- Road Losses: Eagles, R_____ins, Dolphins, Chiefs, Broncos
- Home Wins: Broncos, Giants, Raiders, Chiefs
- Road Wins: Titans, Jaguars, rivals
Predicted Final Record: 7-9
The home losses are against playoff– or near–playoff–caliber teams. Most of our road losses involve East Coast travel; I am not comfortable with calling for wins against the Titans (2nd 10:00 a.m. game in a row) or the Jaguars. This team has had issues in the past playing in the Eastern Time Zone. I believe that flip-flopping some of the home and away games (such as playing the Eagles, R_____ins, and Miami at home while playing the Texans, Cowboys, and Bengals on the road could have translated into two more wins.
- Home losses: Texans, Cowboys, Colts, Broncos, Bengals
- Road Losses: Eagles, Redskins, Dolphins, Broncos
- Home Wins: Giants, Raiders, Chiefs
- Road wins: Titans, Raiders, Jaguars, Chiefs
Predicted final record: 7-9
Look at that slate of home games this season. The Texans, who are early Super Bowl contenders. The Cowboys, who looked REALLY good in the preseason. The Colts, a young playoff team with loads of potential. The Broncos, another Super Bowl contender (and did you see what Peyton did?). The Bengals, with one of the stronger defenses in the league to go with an offense that is above–average everywhere except QB. The Giants, who always go on a late-season run, it seems. It isn't until Oakland in Week 16 when the Chargers have a home game that I feel good picking them for. Then they close at home with the Chiefs.
The road schedule is much nicer, with the Titans and Jaguars in addition to divisional games. The Chargers could very well beat the Eagles and/or Dolphins on the road, but it is tough traveling across the country to play a good home team.
Bottom line: how the Chargers do this season could very well depend on how they play good teams at home.
- Home Losses: Texans, Cowboys, Broncos, Bengals, Colts, Bye week
- Road Losses: Redtails, Broncos, Eagles
- Home Wins: Raiders, Giants, Chiefs
- Road Wins: Raiders, Titans, Jaguars, Chiefs, Dolphins
Predicted final record: 7-9
I have the Chargers sweeping the division except the Broncos because I want something good to come out of this season, and beating other rebuilding teams like the Titans, Jaguars and Dolphins because the Titans never beat San Diego, the Jaguars are awful, and the Dolphins just aren't convincing enough. The Giants because of little Manning.
While the best I could hope for is a 10-6 record, the worst I can imagine is a 6-10 record. So I chose something in between. It’s both reasonable and possible.
I’m going to hinge my preseason predictions on the result of Monday night’s game. This is such a new team from the top down, and I really don’t know what kind of product we’re going to see on the field in 2013. So instead of breaking down wins and losses by week (hard since I don’t know what other teams will look like either), my prediction looks like this:
Beat the Texans: 9 wins. Beating the Texans would show that the Chargers can beat a good team while at home. It would be a huge debut for McCoy and give this team a lot of confidence going forward. Saying that, I think the lack of depth on this team gives it a 9 win ceiling.
Lose by less than 10: 7 wins. If the Chargers are competitive in this game against a much more talented opponent, I think it could show that the Chargers won’t be slouches at home and will pull out some games they probably "shouldn't" win over the course of the season.
Lose by more than 10: 5 wins. If the Chargers aren't competitive in the Week 1, prime time, home debut under the new coach, then there probably isn't too much to look forward to this season.
The offense will have a rough start to this season, its hard to think of a worse Week 1 matchup than the Houston Defense.
I think Philip Rivers will be okay, and Mathews as well, but I worry about the offensive line and how they will fare with the different looks they will be getting from teams. NFL DC's will be all over this line like sharks when there is blood in the water and they will test every facet of the line and find/exploit their weaknesses. It will take a few weeks for McCoy and Whisenhunt to figure out how to scheme and protect properly with this line, but they will improve as the season goes on.
The offense won't have those big plays we were used to a few seasons ago, but I'd expect the offense to finish about middle of the pack between 15th-18th. With this offense, I'd expect Mathews' TDs on the ground to increase, and Rivers' TDs to decrease, hopefully along with the INTs. All of the above is void if there is a significant injury to any starter on the offensive line.
- Home losses: Texans, Bengals, Giants, Denver
- Road Losses:Redskins, Dolphins, Broncos, Chiefs
- Home Wins: Raiders, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys,
- Road wins: Eagles, Titans, Raiders, Jaguars
Predicted Final Record: 8-8
On paper, the Chargers look better in 2013. They upgraded both cornerback spots, the offensive line, and the weapons for Philip Rivers. They certainly do have issues with depth at basically every position, but that is not what the season will come down to.
The defense will be solid. The front seven is very good against the run and they should generate some decent pass rush with their defensive end duo of Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget, as well as Dwight Freeney on the outside.
The season will come down to Philip Rivers and whether or not he can trust the new system and execute it successfully. If he does trust it, he is capable of a monster season as we saw a few year back. Because the new offense is such a wild card, I could see the Bolts finish with anywhere between 5 and 10 wins, but I settled on 8.
- Home Losses: Texans, Cowboys, Broncos, Bengals
- Road Losses: Eagles, Raiders, Redskins, Dolphins, Broncos
- Home Wins: Colts, Giants, Raiders, Chiefs
- Road Wins: Titans, Jaguars, Chiefs
Predicted Final Record: 7-9
Here’s the thing: the 2012 Chargers weren’t any good. I know, I know, they were one win away from .500 and a few plays away from the playoffs, but look at the teams that they were actually able to beat: Raiders, Titans, Chiefs, Steelers, Jets. None of those teams made the playoffs. The 2012 Chargers went 0-5 against teams that made the playoffs and 7-4 against the rest.
Did they do enough in the offseason to be able to beat "playoff caliber" teams this season? I have no idea. I don’t think so, but this team is such a mystery at this point. I could give them anywhere between 4 wins and 10 wins, so I went with 7 (copying SDBM’s formula from above) and gave them a win over the Colts because I thought they only made the playoffs last year because of their incredibly easy schedule.
Now it's your turn. Who should San Diego be worried about on the schedule? Is this a team that will be picking top 10?