By Grant Waller @Grant_J_Waller on April 28, 2014
The Chargers' 2014 NFL schedule is one of the most difficult in the league, so it will be a tough road back to the playoffs for the Bolts. San Diego's defense will have to improve from a year ago. They play six teams that ranked in the top-10 in rushing last season, so depth on the defensive line and at linebacker will be critical. Here's a look at a few of their biggest games of the year.
The Chargers have to get off to a good start. With two tough games at Arizona and against the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks to start the year, the Chargers can't afford to start the season in an 0-2 hole. Arizona missed the playoffs last year, even though they ended the season with a 10-6 record. San Diego has to come out with a chip on their shoulder and prove they belong in the conversation with the hard-nosed teams of the NFC West.
No matter the season the Raiders always put up a fight against the Chargers, especially in Oakland. The Chargers didn't show up in Oakland last year in a pathetic five turnover loss. This is the first divisional game of the year for San Diego, and they must get revenge and start their divisional games off with a win. With such a tough schedule, the Chargers must beat the teams they're expected which includes both games against the Raiders.
San Diego wraps up three straight divisional games with a rematch of last year's AFC Divisional Playoff game in Denver. All three games last year ended in a one score game. In the two losses the Chargers were down big at half, but rallied late to make it close. San Diego can't afford to get down early and have to be more aggressive on offense. The Chargers only had three sacks in three games last year, so they have to get pressure on Manning.
Last year San Diego lost three in a row out of their bye. With such a hard schedule they can't afford a repeat. San Diego should take care of Oakland at home, but the Rams matchup will be a critical one. They have a young and physical defense that was third in the NFL with 53 sacks last year. After the Rams, the Chargers have five tough games (three on the road) against the Ravens, Patriots, Broncos, 49ers and Chiefs, so this is a must-win game.
Since 2004 the Chargers are 2-5 against the Patriots including two postseason losses. San Diego's game with New England starts the hardest four-game stretch in the league, as the Chargers face four playoff teams from last season to end the year. This includes three who made it to their respective conference championship game (vs. Patriots, vs. Denver, at 49ers and at Chiefs). They have to start this stretch with a win at home against New England.
Last season the Chargers finished the regular season with a win against the Chiefs at home to clinch a playoff berth. This year they finish the regular season at Arrowhead against the Chiefs, which is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. San Diego beat Kansas City at Arrowhead last season in a 41-38 thriller. There could very well be another playoff berth on the line in this game for the Chargers.
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