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Chargers’ 2018 Schedule Prediction: Part 1

First in a series of game predictions of the Chargers’ 2018 schedule.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I know, I know. I get it. These are always pretty futile exercises when it’s still this far until the start of the regular season. But it’s the offseason and, well, without training camp news, I have to keep the front page fresh and new until the real action starts.

Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down the 16-game slate into four separate posts and give you all my predictions on each matchup while offering my thoughts on why I believe the Chargers should win or lose each contest.

Again, take these for what they are as there is plenty of time for things to change (or go completely wrong) before the regular season gets underway.

Let’s do this.

9/9 Week 1 vs. Kansas City Chiefs

If there is any team in the entire NFL that has the Chargers’ number, it’s Andy Reid and the Chiefs. It’s almost laughable how the wheels seem to come off every single time the Chargers take the field against this team.

In 2017, Philip Rivers through 10 interceptions. Not a bad total for a season, but he threw six of them against the Chiefs’ secondary. Six interceptions across two games against this one team. That’s just nuts. The craziest thing is how visibly rattled Rivers becomes when he plays this team.

Through most of the season, Rivers played intelligently and efficiently. He was on top of his calls at the line of scrimmage and didn’t risk the turning the ball over often, if at all. However, when staring at the Kansas City defensive backfield, a switch seemed to flip in Rivers that caused his inhibitions to lessen as he threw pass after pass into questionable coverage.

Luckily for PR17, his arch nemesis, cornerback Marcus Peters, is no longer with the Chiefs. Peters was responsible for half of the interceptions that Rivers threw against Kansas City and, although he is just one player on that defense, I have a feeling Rivers will have a much easier time throwing against this defense without the Pro Bowl defender staring right back at him.

On the ground, the Chargers should be able to build on their rushing attack that netted 4.0 yards per carry and a 46-186-2 stat line across both games.

Regardless how high of regards the majority of analysts hold second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, I don’t think the gunslinger will have what it takes to out-duel Philip Rivers in his first NFL start. I believe the Chargers get their first victory against the Chiefs in over four years and the 2018 season starts off on a very high note.

2018 Record: 1-0

9/16 Week 2 @ Buffalo Bills

Unless you currently don’t have a pulse, it’s impossible not to get a little giddy and excited when you see the Bills on the schedule for this season. I personally don’t think I enjoyed a game as much as last year’s matchup in a very long time. Defensive dominance and offensive efficiency up and down the field.

The Bills didn’t take many steps forward regarding either side of the ball. Josh Allen was selected as their quarterback of the future and Tremaine Edmunds was picked to be a spark-plug on a defense that more often flailed than fly.

LeSean McCoy is as dangerous as ever. Unless the run defense takes a leap in the right direction, expect Shady to break a run or two as they’ll look to lean on him early, regardless of who is behind center.

In the end, I don’t believe the Bills have enough firepower to keep up with the Chargers’ offense and, while the defense has some young talent, it won’t be enough to subdue all of the playmakers on the Bolts.

This will be a sound victory leading the Chargers to a 2-0 start to the year.

2018 Record: 2-0

9/23 Week 3 @ Los Angeles Rams

The Rams have done an amazing job this offseason of compiling stars from across the league to add to their team which just came off a playoff appearance and an excellent first season under head coach Sean McVay.

Pro Bowl cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have been added to the secondary while defensive tackle Ndamakung Suh gets paired with All-Pro Aaron Donald in the middle of the defensive line.

On paper, this team looks absolutely phenomenal. If anything, they’re starting to look like the Golden State Warriors of the NFL.

What worries me the most is that the Rams got much better in two areas that are directly tied to some of the major shortcomings of the Chargers.

Their secondary brought in two cornerbacks that have made life very hard for Philip Rivers in recent years. Talib was a big part of the vaunted “No-Fly Zone” in Denver and the majority of Peters’ career interceptions have come against the Chargers. I don’t like this match-up one bit.

With the presence of Suh and Donald along the defensive interior, I’m not feeling too hot about the chances of success between the tackles. The addition of Pouncey at center will help immensely as he has the athletic ability to, maybe, keep up with the more elite defenders. On the bleaker side, Pouncey’s help will come from second-year left guard Dan Feeney and highly-touted “medical redshirt” rookie Forrest Lamp to his right.

I don’t know about you but that’s a lot of inexperience trusted to handle two of the top interior defenders in the entire NFL.

When it’s all said and done, I just can’t see them walking away victorious from this one. Unless the team plays out of their minds, a la the Bills game last year, I believe McVay wins the first regular season edition of the Battle For LA.

2018 Record: 2-1

9/30 Week 4 vs. San Francisco 49ers

After finishing last year on a five-game winning streak, the 49ers look completely rejuvenated from the last several years of dwelling in mediocrity. The addition of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo seemed to ignite a fire within the team and it’s subsequently transformed into a massive tidal wave of lofty expectations heading into 2018.

Jimmy G made the most of his young group of skill players, relying on Marquise Goodwin as his WR1 while mixing in a healthy dose of rookie pass-catchers. Tight end George Kittle and slot receiver Trent Taylor became reliable targets over middle and in the redzone, taking pressure off the new QB in high-pressure situations, i.e., the combacks against the Titans towards the end of the season.

The addition of center Weston Richburg and 2018 first-round selection Mike McGlinchey will help reinforce the offensive line as the offense transition to a new backfield with Carlos Hyde now a Cleveland Brown. I still expect Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to flourish, here.

Defensively, the Niners boast a pair of young stars in linebacker Reuben Foster and defensive lineman Arik Armstead. Former All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman is now the most veteran player on the defense and should help raise the level of play in the secondary.

Looking ahead to this match-up, I can see this easily becoming a offensive shootout that will give the Bolts all the scares they need on any given Sunday. Although the Chargers have the much more elite defensive talent, I can’t undermine the genius that is Kyle Shanahan and his offensive play-calling abilities.

The Chargers get the Niners at “home” and, regardless if that’s truly an advantage for them anymore, I think the Chargers win this one on account of several big plays made by the defensive side of the ball.

2018 Record: 3-1

There you have it. The first four games in the books.

I think there will be some potential rough spots/trap games during the first quarter of the season but I expect the Chargers to come out of the offseason with a renewed fire to build upon their momentum from the prior season. If the team can kick the new year off by getting out of the shadow of Kansas City, I believe big things will be in store going forward.