The NFL regular season starts in just under two months. The 2016 schedule has the Chargers facing the AFC South, NFC South, the Miami Dolphins (AFC East) and the Cleveland Browns (AFC North).
Below is a breakdown of their 2016 opponents.
Week 1: @Kansas City Chiefs
2015 Record: 11-5, 2nd AFC West
Offense: 27th overall
Defense: 7th overall
The Chiefs started 2015 slow, losing five straight games. They ended the season winning 10 straight and won their first playoff game in 20 years. The running game should be solid for the Chiefs in 2016. Jamaal Charles is coming back from an ACL injury. Along with his fellow running backs, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, KC sports one of the best backfields in the NFL.
Week 2: Jacksonville Jaguars
2015 Record: 5-11, 3rd AFC South
Offense: 18th overall
Defense: 24th overall
The Jaguars had a less than stellar season, placing third in the worst division in the NFL in 2015. Jacksonville only won one road game last year. The Jags took to the draft to help beef up their defense by signing defensive players with their first five picks, including DB Jalen Ramsey from Florida State and LB Myles Jack from UCLA.
Week 3: @Indianapolis Colts
2015 Record: 8-8, 2nd AFC South
Offense: 28th overall
Defense: 26th overall
The Colts had a 3-5 record in the first half of the 2015 season, losing starting quarterback Andrew Luck in Week 8. Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and journeyman signal caller Josh Freeman went 5-3 in the second half, but it still was not enough to win the division. If Andrew Luck can stay healthy in 2016, the Colts could make improvements on offense. They drafted a much-needed center, Ryan Kelly from Alabama, with the 18th pick overall.
Week 4: New Orleans Saints
2015 Record: 7-9, 3rd NFC South
Offense: 2nd overall
Defense: 31st overall
The Saints were a very lopsided team in 2015. Their offense averaged 403.8 yards and 25.5 points per game, but their defense allowed an average of 413.8 yards and 29.8 points per game. That is clearly not a recipe for success. The Saints should continue to have a stellar offense with veteran Drew Brees at quarterback.
Week 5: @Oakland Raiders
2015 Season: 7-9, 3rd AFC West
Offense: 24th overall
Defense: 22nd overall
The Raiders made some improvements last year in an attempt to have their first winning season since losing the Super Bowl in 2003, but fell short, again. Their 7-9 record was an improvement considering they have averaged only 4.9 wins a season in the last 13 years. The Raiders will probably continue to improve in 2016. They have a young team lead by third-year quarterback Derek Carr. Don’t sleep on the Raiders in 2016.
Week 6: Denver Broncos
2015 Season: 12-4, 1st AFC West
Offense: 16th overall
Defense: 1st overall
The Broncos won the division — again — for the fifth consecutive season and went on to win Super Bowl 50. Peyton Manning had his worst season, finishing with only nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 10 games. The stellar Broncos’ defense allowed an average of only 283.1 yards and 18.5 points per game. The Broncos are bringing back pretty much the same defense in 2016. The retirement of Manning brings veteran Mark Sanchez, back-up quarterback Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch fighting for the starting position. Rumor has it that Sanchez and Siemian are neck-and-neck in the fight to win the job.
Week 7: @Atlanta Falcons
2015 Season: 8-8, 2nd AFC South
Offense: 7th overall
Defense: 16th overall
The Falcons started out the 2015 season hot, winning six of their first eight games. The second half was the exact opposite, as they went 2-6. One of the two wins in the second half was against their division rival, and eventual Super Bowl runner-up, the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons drafted strong safety Keanu Neal from Florida with the 17th overall pick to boost their struggling defense.
Week 8: @Denver Broncos
See week six.
Week 9: Tennessee Titans
2015 Season: 3-13, 4th AFC South
Offense: 30th overall
Defense: 12th overall
The Titans looked like a sleeper team in Week 1 of the 2015 season, when they won 42-14 against the Tampa Bay Bucs, led by 2nd overall pick, Marcus Mariota, who had 209 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Despite Mariota’s success in Week 1, the Titans ended up with the worst record in 2015, averaging only 311.8 yards and 18.7 points per game. It will be hard to do much worse in 2016, but anything is possible.
Week 10: Miami Dolphins
2015 Season: 6-10, 4th AFC East
Offense: 26th overall
Defense: 25th overall
The Dolphins were led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who averaged 263 passing yards per game and had 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. While those numbers aren’t terrible, his offensive line could not keep him standing up, as he was sacked 45 times. The Titans could fare better in 2016 when it comes to sacks with the signing of offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: @Houston Texans
2015 Season: 9-7, 1st AFC South
Offense: 19th overall
Defense: 3rd overall
The Texans started the season off rocky, going 3-5 in the first half of the season but turned it around in the second half, only losing two games. The third ranked defense allowed only an average of 19.6 points for game and even had five games where their opponent only scored six points. The Texans liked what they saw when Brock Osweiler took over the quarterback duties for the Broncos and signed him to be their starter in 2016. This move could either make them or break them.
Week 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015 Season: 6-10, 4th NFC South
Offense: 5th overall
Defense: 10th overall
The Buccaneers should have had a better record in 2015 since they had a top-10 overall offense and defense. Stats don’t always show the big picture, especially considering their offense averaged 375.9 yards per game, but only 21.4 points per game. The defense allowed an average of 340.4 yards per and 26.4 points per game. The Bucs took to their coaching staff to bring change, naming Dirk Koetter as the new head coach, replacing Lovie Smith, along with Mike Smith as the new defensive coordinator and Todd Monken as the new offensive coordinator.
Week 14: @Carolina Panthers
2015 Season: 15-1, 1st NFC South
Offense: 11th overall
Defense: 6th overall
The Panthers had an explosive offense in 2015, leading the league with 500 total points and an average of 31.3 points per game. Their offense, lead by quarterback Cam Newton, was not able to fare well against the best defense in the league and lost the Super Bowl to the Broncos, scoring only 10 points. The Panthers will be without DB Charles Tillman, who recently announced his retirement after 13 years in the league. They signed former Chargers punter Mike Scifres to a one-year deal.
Week 15: Oakland Raiders
See week five.
Week 16: @ Cleveland Browns
2015 Season: 3-13, 4th AFC North
Offense: 25th overall
Defense: 27th overall
For the fourth straight year, the Browns were in last place in their division. The quarterback situation in Cleveland was their biggest downfall in 2015. The off-field antics of quarterback Johnny Manziel had the Browns switching the starting positions between the former first-round draft pick and Josh McCown. The Browns lost their best wide receiver, Travis Benjamin, to the Chargers during free agency. They went to the draft in hopes of replacing him, drafting five wide receivers, including Corey Coleman from Baylor with the 15th overall pick.
Week 17: Kansas City Chiefs
See week one.
The Chargers only face four teams with a winning record last year, but two of the four of those teams are the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs. They will face two teams with a .500 season and seven teams with a losing season in 2015, including the Oakland Raiders.
The schedule seems pretty easy — on paper — and I predict that they will definitely win more than four games this season. The Chargers play in a tough division and will need to win some of those games to be contenders in 2016.
Thanks for reading!
The San Diego Chargers’ secondary has been tested early and often through the first five games of the season. Though their 2-3 record suggests otherwise, the banged-up unit led by Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett has fared extremely well against the NFL’s top receiving talent.
The Chargers began the season at home against the Detroit Lions and their All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson finished third in the NFL in receiving in 2013 and fell out of the top ten in 2014 despite recording over 1,077 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. San Diego allowed Johnson one catch on the first drive of the game and one catch on the last drive of the game. At the end of the day:
Calvin Johnson: 2 catches for 39 yards.
The very next week, the Chargers traveled to Cincinnati to face the Bengals and their All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green. Green is currently fourth in the NFL in receiving yards with 495, adding three touchdowns. He did have a touchdown reception on a perfectly thrown ball in the back of the end zone. Aside from that score, Green only touched the ball three other times. At the end of the day:
A.J. Green: 4 catches for 45 yards and one touchdown.
In Week 5 before a prime-time audience on Monday Night Football, San Diego welcomed Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The All-Pro Brown finished 2014 as the number one receiver in the NFL with over 1,600 yards, and is third in the league this season with 523 receiving yards after five games. In the prime-time tilt, Brown was held to three receptions for a paltry 45 yards. At the end of the day:
Antonio Brown: 3 catches for 45 yards.
This is a great sign for a team that is once again beset by injuries in the secondary and the offensive line. Both Flowers and Verrett have missed critical game action. When they’re on the field, they have proven to be exceptional at shadowing the best wide receivers the game has to offer.
At the present time, San Diego owns the ninth-ranked passing defense in the league at 218 yards passing allowed per contest. Through three weeks, Green had been allowed the most catches with four and Bengals wideout Marvin Jones had the most receiving yards with 48. In the Week 4 overtime thriller against Cleveland, the Chargers allowed six passes for 79 yards to the Browns best wide receiver, Travis Benjamin.
In the soul-crushing Monday Night Chargers loss, Steelers’ wideout Marcus Wheaton caught only one pass. Wheaton shook off Flowers with a double move that resulted in a 72-yard touchdown. No Steelers’ wide receiver caught any more than three balls. At the end of the day:
Most yards allowed to a wide receiver: 79
Most catches allowed to a wide receiver: 6
Most receiving yards allowed regardless of position: 85 (RB Duke Johnson, Cleveland)
No player has had a 100-yard receiving day against San Diego.
Only one quarterback, Cleveland’s Josh McCown, has thrown for over 300 yards against the Bolts.
The Chargers three losses can be attributed to many things. Injuries, turnovers, clock management and play calling can be named among the various reasons. A weak secondary is not one of those reasons. Dropped interceptions can definitely be added to the list. In the Pittsburgh game alone, three interceptions were dropped, two of which had a clear path to the end zone. Dropped picks were among a list of other missed opportunities that cost San Diego a win against Cincinnati as well.
This bodes well for a team that has more elite receivers on the horizon. San Diego will travel to Green Bay (Randall Cobb) in Week 6 and still has two games against Denver (Demaryius Thomas) remaining.
There is also a trio of rising stars the Chargers secondary will face with Jacksonville (Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns) and two games against Oakland (Amari Cooper). If the Bolts can continue to keep bottling the opposition’s best weapons, the Chargers will win more games and be in prime position to challenge for the AFC West title.
Keep in mind, the remainder of the schedule after the game against the Packers is very favorable for the Chargers.
It is not over yet, BoltFam.
What do you think Bolt Nation? Encouraged or discouraged?
Leave your thoughts in the remarks below.
The Greg One
The Chargers return home to Qualcomm Stadium with a 1-2 record and two terrible games on the road. After winning their opener over the Lions, the Bolts have lost consecutive games against the Bengals and Vikings.
The Browns also come in at 1-2, but they have a starting quarterback dilemma. Despite a strong performance by Johnny Manziel, head coach Mike Pettine decided to go back to Josh McCown as the starter.
Needless to say, San Diego knows exactly who their quarterback is.
Here are my three keys for the Chargers to walk away with a victory in Week 4 over the Browns.
1.) Run the ball
The Browns come in ranked dead last in the NFL in run defense, allowing a league-high 158.3 yards per game. The Chargers need to take advantage of that and get Melvin Gordon heavily involved in the game plan. If the Chargers can run the ball, and run the ball very effectively, winning the time of possession battle, I feel very confident that they will come away with a victory at the Q.
2.) Keep Philip Rivers off of the turf
What I mean by this is, do whatever you can to protect your investment. This ties back into my first key, and that’s run the ball. The last two weeks Rivers has been hit 21 times. That is far too often for your franchise signal caller to be laying on the field, staring up at the sky. Keep Philip upright and let him do his thing, and that’s dissecting defenses and moving the ball downfield.
3.) Get to the quarterback
In three weeks of the 2015 NFL season, the San Diego Chargers have eight quarterback hits with only one of those being a sack. One. That’s tied for last with the Miami Dolphins. This defense (and most importantly, John Pagano) needs to bring blitzes and get McCown or Manziel thinking fast, thinking early and panicking. The defense cannot allow a QB to sit in the pocket for an extended amount of time and pick apart your secondary. No matter how good the secondary is, it cannot cover and will not cover for three seconds every passing play. Bring the blitz, get some pressure, get a few sacks and things will be looking good.
Do you guys agree with my keys to victory? Let me know in the comments.