Will Philip Rivers be celebrating after he plays through the 2013 schedule?
The 2013 schedule has been released, and the San Diego Chargers now know what order they will play their 2013 opponents. The timing and order can actually have an impact on the outcome of games beyond the players on the football field because the talent level between teams is so thin.
Rest days between games and travel can impact fragile and highly tuned athletes more than we realize. For some reason, teams traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast to play an early game are impacted negatively, and the Chargers have a few such games this year.
As the season progresses, teams acquire more tape and more information about their opponents that they use to make game plans which could impact the performance of players and the team. Playing a new coach is a bit of a guessing game for an opposing team from a planning perspective.
Here’s a look at the 2013 schedule with game-by-game predictions, information and analysis.
J.J. Watt is a force for the Texans.
Kickoff: September 9, 7:20 p.m. PT
Instead of the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers draw the prime-time opener against the Houston Texans this season. Unfortunately, playing the Raiders on national television would be a lot better for the national perception of the Chargers.
The Texans are a good team that is deep at most positions and capable of playing great defense, running the ball and opening up the passing attack and beating teams through the air. Part of the reason the Texans have been such a good regular-season team in recent years is their ability to adjust and win in a variety of ways.
The Chargers may be able to stop Arian Foster, but will they be able to cover Andre Johnson? Can the Chargers score against a defense with J.J. Watt on the defensive line, Brian Cushing at linebacker and Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph at cornerback? It will be tough.
The Texans have the kind of defense that is going to make life difficult for Philip Rivers. Watt is a truly dominant player who can put the heat on Rivers in a hurry and force him to make mistakes. The two cornerbacks are more than capable of covering San Diego’s receivers.
If the Chargers can force Matt Schaub to make more mistakes than Rivers, they might have a fighting chance to win this game, but the Texans are simply the more complete team and one that will be very tough to beat with plenty of preparation time.
Score Prediction: Texans 31, Chargers 19
You can bet that Chip Kelly has some tricks up his sleeve.
Kickoff: September 15 at 10 a.m. PT
Playing the Philadelphia Eagles early in the season is a disadvantage because no one quite knows what to expect from Chip Kelly’s offense. Everyone expects Kelly to be fast-paced, but there will only be one week's worth of tape for the San Diego Chargers to study.
There’s also the fact that the Chargers will have to travel to the East Coast to play an early game, which always tends to be a bad thing for teams from the West Coast. There’s a lot to dislike about this game for the Chargers.
The Eagles have a very talented offense that will test the Chargers on the ground and through the air, but their defense is porous. Philip Rivers and the Chargers should be able to score with regularity, but keeping pace with Kelly’s offense could be a problem if the Chargers aren’t prepared for the pace.
On a positive note: The last four teams to play the Eagles in their first home game of the year won the super bowl.
Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Eagles 28
If the Chargers let Chris Johnson accelerate into open space, they could be in trouble.
Kickoff: September 22, 10 a.m. PT
Even with bad protection last season, Rivers was able to make big plays in the passing game, and with improved protection, he should be able to avoid making big mistakes against a team like the Titans.
The San Diego Chargers defense may be going with younger players, but their core of good run defenders will return this season. Chris Johnson is the biggest threat the Chargers have to worry about with the Titans. The Chargers need to slow down Johnson on the ground and force Jake Locker to win the game with his arm.
The Chargers had far too many disappointing performances on the road last season and a big win on the road against the Titans is something they can build on. The Titans aren’t a team that should give the Chargers too many problems unless the pressure gets to Rivers, forcing him to make big mistakes.
Score Prediction: Chargers 33, Titans 19
Tony Romo vs. Philip Rivers in the battle of the almost elite quarterbacks.
Kickoff: September 29, 1:25 p.m. PT
The Dallas Cowboys are a team that will occasionally do great things on offense because they have Tony Romo at quarterback and weapons in the passing game like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The Cowboys will usually be good for a solid scoring effort and put the pressure on the opposing offense to match.
The problem with the Cowboys is their defense doesn’t seem to help their offense win games, despite a lot of talent on that side of the ball. The Cowboys have a lot invested in their two cornerbacks, and DeMarcus Ware is still one of the league’s best pass-rushers.
It will likely come down to which quarterback makes the key turnover or throws a touchdown pass at the end of the game. Although Romo is an underrated quarterback, Rivers is a safer bet at home to win this game for his team.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 24, Chargers 31
The Chargers should target Oakland's new cornerbacks Mike Jenkins (above) and Tracy Porter.
Kickoff: October 6, 1:25 p.m. PT
The San Diego Chargers didn’t have too much trouble with the Oakland Raiders last season, but they got a little lucky when Oakland’s long snapper got hurt.
The perception is that the Raiders released or didn’t re-sign a lot of quality players this offseason, but that’s not the reality. The Raiders will be tougher in 2013 as the team takes on the identity of head coach Dennis Allen.
Of course, the Raiders' weakness until proven otherwise is getting after the quarterback and covering receivers. The Chargers may try to run more in 2013, but Mike McCoy knows it’s a passing league and that Philip Rivers gives his team the best chance to win.
Oakland will have no answer for the passing game if the Chargers can protect Rivers and give him time to attack Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins. Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd could have big games against a secondary as poor as the one in Oakland.
Score Prediction: Chargers 31, Raiders 20
The Chargers have just the right mix of players to beat Andrew Luck and the Colts at home.
Kickoff: October 14, 5:40 p.m. PT
The Chargers gets another crack at winning in prime time and should have a little more luck against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Indianapolis may have Luck, but they don’t have a defense that is going to stop the San Diego Chargers from having a balanced offensive attack.
Luck will get his team into the end zone, but the Chargers will force the Colts to be one-dimensional by stopping Vick Ballard. The Chargers also have just enough talent in their secondary to cover the Colts’ primary passing targets.
It should be a close contest, but the Chargers match up well with the Colts and should be able to pull off the win as long as Luck doesn’t get a chance at the end of the game, as he has a knack for late-game heroics.
Score Prediction: Colts 23, Chargers 27
Maurice Jones-Drew is the one player the Chargers must be able to stop on the Jaguars.
Kickoff: October 20, 10 a.m. PT
The Jacksonville Jaguars were one of the worst teams in the league last season. Unlike the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jaguars haven’t really improved their roster via free agency and didn’t have a talented young base of players to start with. The San Diego Chargers even scooped up their best free agent in cornerback Derek Cox.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is the Jaguars’ best player, but the Chargers were a very good team stopping the run last year. There’s reason to believe the Chargers could get an easy road victory in this game if the Jaguars don’t drastically improve through the draft.
Rivers isn’t going to have any trouble against Jacksonville’s secondary, and it’s hard to imagine the Jaguars scoring a lot of points on San Diego’s defense with a rookie quarterback or Blaine Gabbert under center.
Score Prediction: Chargers 27, Jaguars 20
Eric Weddle will welcome the rest the bye week provides.
The San Diego Chargers will use the bye week to heal, rest and prepare for the final nine games of the season.
Griffin is one of the few dual threats in the NFL at quarterback.
Kickoff: November 3, 10 a.m. PT
Last season, the Washington Redskins were an inconsistent team on offense. Either the Redskins were exploding on offense and leaving the opposing team in their wake or they were held to very average scores. With more experience, Robert Griffin III should be able to get his team producing more consistently.
Obviously, a more consistent Griffin is bad news for the San Diego Chargers when they travel to Washington. San Diego is hoping that by keeping John Pagano as defensive coordinator, they will improve on defense, despite releasing or not re-signing several veteran starters from last season.
The defense might have the same schemes in place, but there will be more than a few new starters. Griffin is hard enough to slow down for a really good defense, so expect a lot of scoring. The Chargers should be able to score points of their own, but they may not be able to keep pace on the road.
Score Prediction: Chargers 28, Redskins 34
Peyton Manning almost always figures things out and beats you.
Kickoff: November 10, 1:25 p.m. PT
The Denver Broncos are a tough team to beat because they do just about everything well. Peyton Manning has a load of offensive weapons to use, and that means defenses have to have the personnel to cover them all. Few teams have three good cornerbacks, a good cover linebacker and an defensive line that can force Manning to get rid of the ball before he’d like.
The San Diego Chargers played Manning tough last year in spurts, but that’s the problem. You can throw a few wrinkles at Manning, but he will always figure it out and beat you. Manning plays the mental part of the game better than anyone, and once he has you figured out, it’s over.
If the Broncos still add a quality pass-rusher opposite Von Miller, the Chargers aren’t going to have much of chance to match Manning’s offensive output. If the Broncos add a dynamic running game to the mix, that’s going to make things even more difficult for the Chargers.
It will be a close game as these division games usually are, but the Broncos were on another level until losing in the playoffs last year. The Broncos have done nothing but continue to add quality pieces to their offense this offseason.
Score Prediction: Broncos 28, Chargers 24
The Dolphins dumped a lot of money in the offseason into what could amount to very little production.
Kickoff: November 17, 10 a.m. PT
The Miami Dolphins have gone on an offseason spending spree and somehow managed to not improve their roster. Maybe that’s harsh, but the Dolphins spent a lot of money for small upgrades.
Miami’s defense was solid last year, but the Dolphins sent their linebackers packing in order to be better in coverage. Of course, Philip Rivers should still be able to exploit the Dolphins secondary which lost Sean Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs. The San Diego Chargers may have more success on the ground, too, as a result of the linebacker changes in Miami.
If the Chargers can slow down Miami’s passing attack, they should be able to get the tough victory on the road. Miami is banking on Mike Wallace to improve their passing offense, which is a huge risk because the Chargers will just give Derek Cox help over the top to make sure he can’t break any big plays.
Score Prediction: Chargers 23, Dolphins 19
The Chiefs are hoping Alex Smith is the answer.
Kickoff: November 24, 10 a.m. PT
The Chargers didn’t have a problem with the lowly Kansas City Chiefs in 2012, but things can change quickly in the NFL. The Chiefs are loaded with young talent and now have a quarterback who will presumably be able to execute Andy Reid’s offense.
Reid’s West Coast offense will take advantage of San Diego’s average pass rush and young secondary with short passes. Eric Weddle flying up from his safety spot to make tackles will be a key, but he needs to get help from the rest of the secondary.
Kansas City’s defense is capable of putting pressure on Philip Rivers from both sides, and the Chargers haven’t done enough to solidify their pass-blocking. Rivers will make a few mistakes which will be the difference in the game.
Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Chiefs 27
Geno Atkins terrorized quarterbacks last season.
Kickoff: December 1, 1:25 p.m. PT
The Cincinnati Bengals were a quality playoff team last season, thanks to a good defense and the heroics of A.J. Green. Both Green and Cincinnati’s defense pose problems for the Chargers.
Derek Cox is a good cornerback, but he’s not a quarterback who is capable of locking down Green without help. The San Diego Chargers will need to put pressure on Andy Dalton and force him to make mistakes in an attempt to take away Green. The problem for the Chargers is that they don’t have the pass-rusher who is going to break through the solid Bengals’ offensive line.
The biggest problem for the Chargers will be getting something going against the Bengals defense. Geno Atkins is an absolute monster up the middle, and the Chargers still have a very fluid offensive line situation. The Chargers may score on a few big plays, but otherwise, they may struggle to get much going through the air or on the ground.
Score Prediction: Bengals 24, Chargers 21
A healthy Hakeem Nicks is tough to cover.
Kickoff: December 8, 1:25 p.m. PT
The New York Giants were a vastly different team on the road last year than they were at home. The Giants rely heavily on turnovers on defense which could be a big factor for the Giants on the road. The Chargers need to focus on protecting the football.
New York’s defense isn’t great against the run or pass as long as it isn't creating turnovers, so the Chargers need to be conservative in the passing game. If the Chargers can pick their spots and Philip Rivers can take care of the ball through the air, they should be in a good position to win the game.
The Chargers could have trouble covering both Hakeem Nicks and Victory Cruz, but this might be a situation where they can get away with using creative zone coverage to try and fool Eli Manning. The Chargers are capable of beating a team like the Giants, and they really need a quality win in December to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Score Prediction: Giants 17, Chargers 30
The Chargers had some trouble blocking Von Miller last year.
Kickoff: December 12, 5:25 p.m. PT
The Chargers had the Broncos against the ropes in Week 6, but their epic collapse in the second half triggered what ended up being a disappointing season in San Diego. In Denver, the comeback win was the first of a win streak that lasted until the playoffs.
When the Chargers went to Denver, they allowed 17 points in the second quarter and lost by a touchdown after jumping out to an early lead. Philip Rivers threw two interceptions and fumbled three times (losing one) in that game.
Rivers is the key to staying competitive against the elite teams of the AFC. If Rivers can avoid turnovers and still be productive, the Chargers have a chance to win against just about any team. For Rivers to be productive, the Chargers need to slow down Von Miller. Rivers has proven that he can be productive if given enough time to get the ball to his receivers.
Score Prediction: Chargers 21, Broncos 31
Should the Chargers be worried about Matt Flynn?
Kickoff: December 22, 1:25 p.m. PT
Those pesky Oakland Raiders always win a game they have no business winning. Every year, the Raiders play the San Diego Chargers tough, and 2013 will be no exception. The Raiders have actually improved in 2013, despite a lot of roster change on defense.
Philip Rivers is going to find open receivers and shouldn’t be pressured with regularity, but the Raiders will probably get a score on special teams or a big game surprise from one of their wide receivers. The Raiders have also had more success running the ball on the Chargers than most teams.
This is a game that the Chargers should win, but they may let it slip away, thanks to a untimely turnover or blown assignment on defense. The Chargers may have new leadership, but they are still the same team with the same quarterback who has been disappointing fans for years.
Score Prediction: Raiders 28, Chargers 27
Justin Houston could cause problems for the Chargers.
Kickoff: December 29, 1:25 p.m. PT
The Kansas City Chiefs are going to be much better in 2013 for a variety of reasons. A competent offensive scheme and play-calling are going to help tremendously, and there’s the fact that teams usually bounce back after leading the league in turnovers.
If you throw Alex Smith, Sean Smith, Mike Devito, Anthony Fasano and Donnie Avery into the mix with the players the Chiefs already had, you get a good defense with an above-average offense. If the Chiefs land an impact player or two in the draft, that’s going to make them a pretty good team overall.
The San Diego Chargers beat the Chiefs twice last season, but the Chiefs had a lot more resources to improve their team in the offseason. The Chiefs have two good pass-rushers coming from either end, which will mean Rivers is going to feel the heat in this game.
Rivers may have a very good season if he’s protected, but the Chiefs have the personnel that is going to force him to make mistakes. Things could certainly still change between these two teams, depending on what each team does in the draft, but right now, the Chiefs don’t have the blockers to slow down Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.
Score Prediction: Chiefs 24, Chargers 21