My first thoughts off the top of my head regarding the San Diego Chargers last year: Philip Rivers is still one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, but his offensive line was an absolute joke; I was so wrong on picking running back Melvin Gordon as my 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in the preseason; that defense was really bad.
San Diego finished last in the AFC West with a 4-12 record, the franchise's worst mark since a 4-12 record in 2003 under Marty Schottenheimer. Rivers had a fairly remarkable season in finishing second in the NFL with 4,792 yards to go with 29 touchdown passes. I say remarkable because he was under siege every game due to an injury-ravaged offensive line. I suppose that helped explain why Gordon was so ordinary (that's being kind), rushing for 641 yards and not a single touchdown on 184 carries. That's almost hard to do, not scoring with that many touches. More kudos to Rivers considering top receiver Keenan Allen was on a record pace before he got hurt and was limited to eight games.
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The Chargers were 1-7 on the road last season but a very good 6-2 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." They play four road games against 2015 playoff teams this season, including both Super Bowl clubs. Not one prime-time road game on the slate. The home schedule looks quite a bit easier outside the division. I project a 2-6 road mark. San Diego has a wins total of 6.5 at BetOnline for the coming season, with the over a -160 favorite. Odds listed below for the home teams.
Sept. 11 at Chiefs (-7, 43.5): Better to visit Kansas City in early September for a warm-weather club like the Chargers than in December. And San Diego won't have to deal with Chiefs stud pass-rusher Justin Houston, who is likely to open the season on the PUP list. San Diego lost 10-3 in Week 14 in Kansas City last year. Rivers had two incomplete passes near the goal line in the final seconds. I'm guessing the Chargers might have gone for two if they had scored since they had nothing to play for. Rivers, playing through the flu, threw for 263 yards and a pick. San Diego had only 280 total yards. Key trend: Chargers 1-4 ATS as at least a 7-point road dog in series.
Sept. 25 at Colts (-5.5): San Diego is off perhaps the last home opener ever in its city, facing Jacksonville. Indianapolis could be a bit flat off a trip to Denver in Week 2. The Chargers have won their past two at the Colts, last in 2010 -- so pre-Andrew Luck. Indy won the last meeting 19-9 in 2013. Key trend: Chargers 8-1-1 ATS in their past 10 at AFC South teams.
Oct. 9 at Raiders (-4.5): Bolts are home to New Orleans the previous Sunday. Oakland is in Baltimore in Week 4. Could be the last time these teams play one another in Oakland with both clubs waiting in line for the final L.A. spot, perhaps as soon as next season. Since 2005, the Chargers are 8-3 against the Raiders in Oakland. But they lost there on a Thursday in Week 16 last year, 23-20 in overtime. San Diego's Denzel Perryman committed a really stupid penalty in OT to help Oakland on scoring drive in OT. The Bolts couldn't get a first down on the following possession to end the game. Rivers threw for 277 yards and a TD. Key trend: Chargers have covered five straight as a road dog in series.
Oct. 23 at Falcons (-3): Extra time to rest up for this one for San Diego as it's home to Denver on Thursday in Week 6. Atlanta is off a trip to Seattle the previous Sunday. San Diego is just 1-8 all time in the series, winning in 1988. Key trend: Chargers 3-3 ATS at NFC South teams.
Oct. 30 at Broncos (-7): Should be the first cold-weather game for San Diego. This is the only back-to-back road stretch for the Chargers as well. Denver is on a short week, hosting Houston on Monday in Week 7. San Diego lost 27-20 in Denver in Week 17 last year despite the Chargers forcing five turnovers. Peyton Manning came on in relief to rescue the Broncos. Key trend: Chargers 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog of at least 7 in series.
Nov. 27 at Texans (-4.5): San Diego is off its bye week. Houston is on a short week, off a Monday night trip to Oakland. The Bolts know new Texans QB Brock Osweiler well as he was 2-0 vs. San Diego last year while with Denver, although as noted above he was replaced by Manning in second half of the Week 17 game. The Chargers are 4-1 vs. Houston but lost the most recent meeting in 2013. Key trend: Chargers have failed to cover past five after a bye (any location).
Dec. 11 at Panthers (-10): Bolts are off a home game vs. Tampa in Week 13. This looks like a huge trap game for Carolina as it's off a Sunday night trip to Seattle and ahead of a Monday night trip to Washington. San Diego is 1-4 in the series, winning in 2004 -- its last visit to Charlotte. Key trend: Chargers have covered past four as a double-digit road dog anywhere.
Dec. 24 at Browns (+2): Ah, the holidays in Cleveland. San Diego is off a home game vs. Oakland in Week 15. It's the Browns' home finale and they could well be winless. They come in off a trip to Buffalo. The Chargers beat the visiting Browns 30-27 in Week 4 last year. San Diego kicker Josh Lambo missed the winning 39-yard field goal with two seconds left, but the Browns were naturally called for offside. Lambo then connected on the 34-yarder. Rivers was great, throwing for 358 yards and three touchdowns. Key trend: Chargers 4-6 ATS in past 10 as a road favorite anywhere.
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