I took a look at the San Diego Chargers' schedule this afternoon and said "wow!" They start out in the Black Hole of Oakland, then host Ray Lewis and the tough Ravens, followed by their nemesis the Miami Dolphins, then travel to their own personal hell hole of horrors up in Pittsburgh.
That said, if Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jamal Williams, Shawne Merriman, Antonio Gates, Antonio Cromartie, Malcolm Floyd, Buster Davis, Nick Hardwick, Marcus McNeil, Luis Castillo, Stephen Cooper, and Clinton Hart can stay healthy and/or on the field, the Bolts have a shot to make some noise even with the tough 2009 schedule.
The key to a fast start rests on Merriman's massive shoulders. Taking away Merriman from the Chargers' defense was the equivalent of taking Peyton Manning away from the Colts' offense. The loss of Merriman turned once top performers like Castillo, Igor Olshansky, and Shaun Phillips into ordinary guys. Merriman occupies two to three guys on every play, the Chargers don't have another guy like that on defense luckily for the AFC West.
Coming off of a knee injury however, Merriman may be limited in his first few games. That doesn't bode well for the Chargers' fast start, so hopefully Merriman comes out on the same tear that Philip Rivers came out with last year.