With the start of the NFL preseason nearly 24 hours away, ESPN.com released their annual preseason power rankings.
In recent years the San Diego Chargers have been near the top, usually in the Top 5. However despite posting a winning record (9-7) in 2010, they missed the playoffs for the first time since winning four straight AFC West division titles.
The Chargers find themselves out of the Top 5, but still in the Top 10. They are the only team in the Top 10 without double-digit wins.
Once again the question will be raised about whether the Chargers can get out of the blocks quickly or if they will continue their streak of slows starts and strong finishes.
The Chargers start the season with a relatively soft schedule. They open the season at home on what will be the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks against the Minnesota Vikings, then travel to New England to take on the Patriots then return home to face the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins.
However, the rest of the schedule isn't easy. Compared to the other 32 teams in the NFL, the San Diego Chargers have the ninth toughest schedule in 2011 according to NFL.com. The combined record of all 16 of the Chargers' opponents in 2011 is 133-123-0.
The key to a successful run to the playoffs and a potential Super Bowl will not only be for the Chargers to start strong, but to finish strong as they usually do.
The rest of the AFC West doesn't fair too well.
The Chiefs finished the 2010 regular season at 10-6 and claimed their first division title since 2003, the Raiders (8-8) came just shy of their first winning season since 2002 and the Broncos (4-12) have been struggling since 2007.
While the AFC West is considered by many to be one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, the Chargers will need to step on the gas when the light turns green or once again face the possibility of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row.
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