Definitely a transition season in San Diego. The team could be on the move to Los Angeles for 2016. Quarterback Philip Rivers is in the final year of his contract. The Bolts feel like one of those teams that could win 10 games or lose 10 and it really wouldn't surprise. Keep in mind that star tight end Antonio Gates, who might be in his final season, is suspended the first four games of the season for PED use.
I will say this, however: My early Offensive Rookie of the Year pick is San Diego running back Melvin Gordon, who nearly broke the FBS record for single-season yards last season at Wisconsin and did break the single-game mark ... for a week. I'm well aware recent Wisconsin running backs have disappointed in the NFL, but Gordon is in a great spot and will be the main guy from Day 1. He's the third-favorite for OROY on 5Dimes at +800.
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As an aside, expect a big contingent of Chargers fans this weekend in Canton as maybe the most popular Charger ever, the late Junior Seau, is inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday. Seau was a first-team All-Pro selection eight times and also voted to 12 Pro Bowls as both an inside and outside linebacker. Unfortunately, Seau committed suicide in 2012 and his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL claiming that brain damage suffered while playing football led to him committing suicide. The lawsuit is still being litigated.
The Chargers were 4-4 on the road last season, 4-4 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." Their 2015 road schedule ranks nearly in the middle as the 15th-hardest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2014 winning percentage of .520. It's the second-toughest in the AFC West behind Kansas City.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds. There are four road games against 2014 playoff teams.
Sept. 20 -- at Bengals (-3): San Diego off a Week 1 home game vs. Detroit, while Cincinnati is in Oakland in Week 1. Never easy for a West Coast team to play these 1 p.m. ET games, but at least it won't be cold in Cincy this time of year. First meeting since Bolts went to frigid Cincinnati on Jan. 5, 2014, for a wild-card game and pulled off a 27-10 upset. Chargers lose this, however, Key trend: Chargers 5-5 ATS in past 10 at AFC North teams.
Sept. 27 -- at Vikings (pick'em): Another 1 p.m. ET start but, again, at least the Chargers are heading to Minneapolis this early in the season instead of December. Minnesota is off a Week 2 home game against Detroit. First Bolts trip to Minnesota since 2007, but of course that was in the dome. Chargers lose this. Key trend: Chargers 1-5 ATS at NFC North teams.
Oct. 18 -- at Packers (-7): Short week for San Diego as it's off a Week 5 Monday night home game against Pittsburgh. Green Bay is home to St. Louis the previous Sunday and ahead of its bye week. Break here for Bolts in that it's a 4;25 p.m. ET start, and it shouldn't be too bad weather wise in Green Bay this time of year. The Chargers have lost six straight in the series, last in 2011. Make it seven. Key trend: Chargers 7-2-1 ATS in past 10 as a road dog of at least 7 points.
Nov. 1 -- at Ravens (-3.5): Yet another trip east for San Diego and another 1 p.m. ET start. The Chargers are off a Week 7 home game vs. Oakland, while Baltimore is on a short week as it's in Arizona the previous Monday. San Diego won in Baltimore 34-33 in Week 13 last season. The Chargers never led until Rivers threw a 1-yard touchdown to Eddie Royal (now with Bears) with 38 seconds left. They were down 10 with just over six minutes left. Rivers went 34-for-45 for 383 yards and three touchdowns, two to Keenan Allen. It was Baltimore's first-ever home loss against a West Coast team. Chargers lose this one. Key trend: Chargers 6-4 ATS in past 10 as a road dog in November.
Nov. 29 -- at Jaguars (+4.5): Another 1 p.m. ET start, but at least it will be warm. San Diego off a home game vs. Kansas City, while Jacksonville has a bit of extra time to prepare as it hosts Tennessee on a Thursday in Week 11. Chargers beat visiting Jaguars 33-14 in Week 14 last season. Rivers threw for 377 yards and three scores, two to Royal. Allen had 10 catches for 135 yards. Chargers win this. Key trend: Chargers 2-8 ATS in past 10 as a road favorite of at least 4 points.
Dec. 13 -- at Chiefs (-2): Last 1 p.m. ET start for the Chargers. They are off a Week 13 home game vs. Denver, while Kansas City is in Oakland the previous Sunday. San Diego could have made the playoffs with a win in Week 17 at Kansas City last season but lost 19-7. Midway through the fourth quarter, a Rivers touchdown pass to Royal was overturned by a video review. Rivers was 20-for-34 for 291 yards and two picks. He was sacked seven times, four by Justin Houston. Chargers lose this. Key trend: Chargers 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Dec. 24 -- at Raiders (+3): Final Thursday night game of season. San Diego off a home game vs. Miami in Week 15, while Oakland is home to Green Bay the previous Sunday. Almost surely last Chargers-Raiders game in Oakland as one of those two, if not both, could be in L.A. next season. Think Raiders are a lock to be. Chargers won in Oakland 31-28 last season to cap a season-high five-game winning streak. Branden Oliver scored on a 1-yard run with 1:56 to play for the winning points. He rushed for 101 yards on the day. Rivers threw for 313 and three scores. He became the fifth QB to throw for 4,000 yards in his career against the Raiders. Chargers win this. Key trend: Chargers 6-4 ATS in past 10 as road favorite in series.
Jan. 3 -- at Broncos (TBA): 5Dimes has some Week 17 lines posted but not too many because of all the intangibles possible on the final Sunday of the season. Denver is on a short week, hosting Cincinnati on Monday in Week 16. Maybe San Diego catches a break here in that the Broncos have nothing to play for. Quite possible. Could also be Peyton Manning's final home game. The Chargers lost 35-21 in Denver in Week 8 on a Thursday last season. Rivers threw for three touchdowns and his streak of seven straight games with at least two touchdown passes broke the Chargers' franchise record set by Dan Fouts in 1981. Gates had 54 receiving yards to bring his career total to 9,610, passing Lance Alworth for most in team history. Chargers lose this if Broncos care. Key trend: Chargers 6-2-2 ATS in past 10 at Denver.
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