San Diego Chargers 2011 Schedule: Will This Be the Year the Bolts Win It All?
At first glimpse of the San Diego Chargers schedule, Chargers fans must be wondering what the NFL was thinking. On the other hand, I believe this is what the Chargers need in order to shake those slow-start skeletons.
Three of the Chargers' first four games will be at home and of those four games, two of those are against teams with losing records in 2010. The cumulative record of the Chargers' opponents is 133-123-0, making their schedule the ninth-hardest for the 2011 season.
On top of that, the Chargers will have to travel a grand total of 26,740 miles this season, making three trips to the Midwest and three trips to the East Coast.
San Diego will one again find itself playing in front of nationally televised audiences in prime time. The Chargers will be featured in two Monday Night Football road games, a Thursday Night Football game at home and a Football Night in America game on Sunday night at home.
If the Chargers can get off to a quick start and keep their players healthy for the entire season, then once again the Bolts will find themselves in the running to collect their fifth AFC West division title in six years.
Week 1: Minnesota Vikings
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However, that wasn't the only record to be broken that day.
Just before halftime, the Vikings were attempting a long field goal that ended up falling short. Defensive back Antonio Cromartie returned the ball 109 yards for a touchdown. Replays would show that Cromartie's foot was barely in bounds, making it a record that will never be broken.
The Chargers should have the advantage in this game if they can stop the Vikings rushing game. With Brett Favre finally retiring, the Vikings will once again have problems at quarterback, and that may be an advantage for the Chargers.
Prediction: Minnesota 10, San Diego 34
Week 2: at New England Patriots
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The New England Patriots made the journey to sunny Southern California last year to face a San Diego team that was struggling with another rough start.
The Patriots jumped to an early lead, but the Chargers battled back and pulled within three after New England gambled on a 4th-and-1 with less two minutes to play. San Diego mounted an offense and marched the ball down to the 27-yard line.
The Chargers would line up for what would have been a 45-yard field goal attempt, but an offsides call moved the ball back five yards and kicker Kris Brown who was brought in for an injured Nate Kaeding would bounce the ball off the right upright.
The Patriots have been the thorn in the Chargers' side since that epic 2007 AFC Championship game loss in Foxborough.
Hopefully, with this game being played early in the season, the Chargers will be able to get the jump on the Pats.
Prediction: San Diego 27, New England 28
Week 3: Kansas City Chiefs
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The Chargers split the season series with the Chiefs last year as Kansas City went on to win its first AFC West division title since 2003.
The Chiefs seemed to be making all the right moves. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli brought in brand-new offensive and defensive coordinators, two men Pioli was very familiar with in New England, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel.
With quarterback Matt Cassel (another Patriots prodigy) taking the snaps and getting the plays from Weis, the Chiefs began to look like the New England Patriots West.
The Chargers will be looking to get a jump on the Chiefs and hand them their first AFC West division loss. If all goes right, the Chiefs will be chasing the Chargers for the AFC West title rather than it being the other way around and a repeat of 2010.
Prediction: Kansas City 17, San Diego 28
Week 4: Miami Dolphins
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The Chargers will be playing their third home game in four games when the Miami Dolphins come to town.
The Dolphins have been struggling as of late and still haven't found a solution at quarterback, something they are hoping to address in the draft or via free agency.
This game will probably be a complete blowout.
Prediction: San Diego 34, Miami 10
Week 5: at Denver Broncos
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The Chargers travel to the thin air of the Mile High city as they look to start the 2011 season 2-0 in the AFC West.
The Broncos will have a new look. Head coach Josh McDaniels, who was once billed as the future of the franchise, saw his departure come midway through the 2010 season. He was replaced by Eric Studesville, who would go 1-3 as interim head coach.
After the season ended, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen hired former Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox to be the 14th head coach in franchise history.
The question is: Can John Fox right the sinking ship of the Denver Broncos? I don't think so.
Prediction: San Diego 42, Denver 14
Week 6: Bye
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With the amount of injuries that plagued the Chargers last season, I wish that the bye week would have come one or two weeks later.
However, this may work to the Chargers' advantage. If the Chargers can stay healthy during the early part of the season and ward off any would-be attacks by the injury bug, they could be ready to go down the stretch and hopefully deep into the playoffs.
Week 7: at New York Jets
The Chargers will travel to New Meadowlands Stadium for the first time and face the New York Jets in what will be the second game of a three-game road trip.
This will be the first time the Chargers will be facing former teammate LaDainian Tomlinson and a Jets team that knocked them out of the playoffs two seasons ago.
One word comes to mind when setting up this game...Redemption!
Prediction: San Diego 24, New York Jets 21
Week 8: At Kansas City Chiefs
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This will be the Chargers' first trip back to Arrowhead Stadium since suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Chiefs in their season opener on Monday Night Football.
This will be the second and final meeting of the 2011 season between these two AFC West division rivals, and just like last season, this game will be on Monday Night Football and televised to a nationwide crowd in prime time.
The Chargers will have to jump to an early lead and play solid defense if they want any chance of winning this game in front of what will once again be a very loud Arrowhead Stadium crowd.
Prediction: San Diego 21, Kansas City 24
Week 9: Green Bay Packers
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The Chargers will play host to the defending Super Bowl champions in a game that may be a preview of what the postseason will be like.
San Diego's offense and defense will have to come up big if it has any chance of walking away from this game with a win.
Prediction: Green Bay 31, San Diego 28
Week 10: Oakland Raiders
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Oakland would go on to beat San Diego twice, sweeping the Chargers for the first time in many years.
This is the second prime-time game for the Chargers this season, making their first appearance on Thursday Night Football on NFL Network this season.
Prediction: Oakland 31, San Diego 34
Week 11: at Chicago Bears
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Let the cross-field smack talking begin!
This will be the first meeting between the Bears and Chargers since Cutler became the starting quarterback in 2010. Cutler has rejuvenated his career since coming to the Bears after butting heads with then Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels.
Cutler led the Bears all the way to the NFC Championship game, but suffered an injury during the game that cut his playing time short and a possible shot of making it to the Super Bowl.
Prediction: San Diego 35, Chicago 31
Week 12: Denver Broncos
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The Denver Broncos will leave the thin mile high air of Invesco Field and travel to San Diego for what will be the second and final meeting between the Chargers and Broncos this season.
The Chargers will be looking for another big win against the Broncos to help increase their lead not only in the standings, but in the AFC West as well.
Broncos head coach John Fox will go 0-2 in his debut in the AFC West, and might find himself on the chopping block at the end of the season.
Prediction: Denver 17, San Diego 37
Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars
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The Chargers find themselves making one last trip to the East Coast to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. It will be the second time this season the Chargers will be playing on the road for Monday Night Football.
It will be interesting to see where this season leads the Jaguars. Head coach Jack Del Rio will need to conjure up some wins this season or he might be looking for a new job come the season's end.
Prediction: San Diego 42, Jacksonville 18
Week 14: Buffalo Bills
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This will be an interesting homecoming for former San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman.
Merriman was drafted by the Chargers in 2005 and became an instant fan favorite. Unfortunately, injuries began to plague his career, and he lost the entire 2008 season with a knee injury that required surgery.
During training camp of the 2010 season, Merriman elected not to sign his Restricted Free Agent tender and soon became one of Chargers general manager A.J. Smith's least favorite people. After suffering an injury after returning to Chargers, Merriman was placed on Injured Reserve and placed on waivers once he was healthy.
Merriman would suffer an injury eight days after he was acquired by the Bills and would spend the rest of the season on Injured Reserve. He signed a two-year contract extension on January 2, 2011.
The Bills are in desperate need of help. In his first year as head coach, Chan Gailey went 4-12 and the future doesn't look good. The Chargers should have no problem steamrolling the Bills, especially in front of a home crowd.
Prediction: Buffalo 10, San Diego 45
Week 15: Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens will travel west to face the Chargers on Football Night in America. This will be the fourth and final time the Chargers will be playing in prime time for the 2011 season.
There hasn't been much action between these two teams since both were in a heated race for the number one seed in the 2006 NFL playoffs. Both the Chargers and Ravens lost to their opponents during the divisional round of the postseason that year.
The Chargers will have to keep a very close eye on Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, since he can prove to be a constant threat.
Prediction: Baltimore 21, San Diego 24
Week 16: at Detroit Lions
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The Chargers travel back to the midwest and visit the Motor City for a date with the Detroit Lions on Christmas Eve.
The Lions have found a resurgence as of late under the direction of head coach Jim Schwartz. After going 2-14 in 2009, the Lions bounced back in 2010, going 6-10.
The Chargers are going to have their hands full with defensive line duo of Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
While the Lions will be looking to increase their wins total from 2010, it won't be against the Chargers.
Prediction: San Diego 31, Detroit 7
Week 17: at Oakland Raiders
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The Chargers will finish their 2011 campaign by traveling to the Black Hole in an attempt to complete the season sweep of their AFC West division rival.
San Diego found it incredibly difficult to beat Oakland last season, and the Raiders were able to capitalize on key mistakes. However, with the sudden dismissal of head coach Tom Cable, the scale may once again be tipping in favor of the Chargers.
Beating the Raiders in Oakland may give the Chargers the confidence they will need to carry them into the playoffs.
Prediction: San Diego 31, Oakland 21