Frankly, what happens on the field this season for the San Diego Chargers is mostly irrelevant compared to what happens in a Nov. 8 ballot initiative on whether the city should raise taxes to build the Chargers a new stadium. Voters will decide whether to increase the hotel room tax to 16.5 percent, up from its current rate of 12.5 percent, with the proceeds to help fund a $1.8 billion new downtown stadium and convention center. The team and NFL are pledging $650 million.
It's not looking good that the measure will pass as of now, and if it doesn't the Chargers have until mid-January of next year to tell the NFL they are willing to move to Los Angeles and share a new facility with the Rams. Would the Bolts move as soon as next year or play a few lame-duck seasons in San Diego? Not sure the answer to that. Qualcomm Stadium, which opened in 1967, is considered one of the worst stadiums in the league. Obviously the AFC West rival Oakland Raiders will be watching election results closely because they can move to L.A. if the Chargers don't. I personally hope the Chargers stay.
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So this will be an interesting season in San Diego. Alas, I don't think it will be a successful one -- which is shame because if the team was a Super Bowl contender, that might help turn the vote to the team's favor. San Diego slipped to 4-12 last year, and now Coach Mike McCoy is squarely on the hot seat and the betting favorite at sportsbooks to be the first coach fired in 2016. He almost wasn't brought back after last year.
As long as Philip Rivers stays healthy, this team should be competitive. But the team is being pig-headed with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa. He has yet to sign, which is ridiculous. The Chargers are being stubborn about bonus structure when really rookie deals these days are set in stone. Bosa would be the team's biggest offseason addition, although I did like the second-round choice of Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry. He should be the long-term replacement for future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, who decided to return for one more season. The Bolts also added former Browns receiver Travis Benjamin in free agency. The offense should be fine. But the defense likely will be rather blah again.
The Chargers were 3-5 at home last season, 2-6 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." They host two 2015 playoff teams this season, both from inside the AFC West. I project a 4-4 record. San Diego has a wins total of 7 at BetOnline, with the over a -160 favorite. I'd go under as I think this will be a 6-10 team. Overall, the Bolts' strength of schedule ranks as the 13th-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .508. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 18 vs. Jaguars (-2.5): San Diego probably 0-1 after visiting Kansas City in Week 1. Jacksonville is home to Green Bay the previous Sunday. The Chargers have won five straight in the series and won 31-25 in Jacksonville in Week 12 last year to end a six-game losing streak at the time. Rivers threw for 300 yards -- joining the 40,000-yard club -- and four touchdowns. Gates caught two of them. Key trend: Bolts 3-7 ATS in past 10 as a September home favorite of 2.5 points or fewer.
Oct. 2 vs. Saints (-3): Chargers off a trip to Indianapolis in Week 3. New Orleans is on a short week, hosting the Falcons on Monday in Week 3. This should be the final career meeting between Rivers and the guy whose job he took a decade ago, the Saints' Drew Brees. The Chargers have lost the past two meetings, both in New Orleans. So this will be Brees' first regular-season game back in San Diego. Key trend: Bolts 2-4 ATS at home vs. NFC South.
Oct. 13 vs. Broncos (+3): Thursday game. Bolts are off a trip to Oakland the previous Sunday. Denver is home to Atlanta in Week 5. San Diego lost 17-3 at home to Denver in Week 13 last year. Rivers had one of his worst games of the year, going 18-for-35 for 202 yards and a pick that was returned for a touchdown. Key trend: Bolts 2-8 ATS in past 10 as home dog in series.
Nov. 6 vs. Titans (-4.5): San Diego off a trip to Denver in Week 8. Tennessee is on extra rest as it hosts Jacksonville on Thursday in Week 8. Remember the rumors the Chargers were trying to trade Rivers to the Titans for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft so the Bolts could take Marcus Mariota? First meeting between the clubs since. Key trend: Bolts 9-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC South.
Nov. 13 vs. Dolphins (-1): Chargers are ahead of their bye week, and this is the only instance of the season where they have back-to-back home games. This is also the team's first game after that vote. Miami is home to the Jets in Week 9. San Diego's final win last season was Week 15 at home vs. the Dolphins, 30-14. Danny Woodhead rushed for a score and caught three. Rivers threw for 311, three TDs and two picks. Key trend: Bolts 7-3 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC East.
Dec. 4 vs. Buccaneers (-2): San Diego comes off a trip to Houston in Week 12. Tampa is home to Seattle the previous Sunday. The Chargers are 5-0 at home all time in this series. Key trend: Bolts 4-3 ATS as home favorite of 2 points or fewer in December.
Dec. 18 vs. Raiders (+1): Bolts likely off a loss in Carolina the previous Sunday. Oakland is on extra rest, visiting Kansas City on Thursday in Week 14. San Diego lost at home to the Raiders in Week 7 last year, 37-29. That score is misleading as it was 37-6 entering the fourth quarter. Rivers was 38-for-58 for 336 yards and three scores, but his two picks led directly to 10 Oakland points. Key trend: Bolts 6-4 ATS in past 10 as home dog in series.
Jan. 1 vs. Chiefs (TBA): San Diego off a trip to Cleveland in Week 16. Needless to say, this could be an emotional day at Qualcomm. Kansas City is off a likely big home game vs. Denver on Christmas night. The Chargers were clobbered 33-3 at home by K.C. in Week 11 last year. San Diego had 201 total yards and was outscored by two Kansas City defensive players. Key trend: Bolts 0-3 ATS in past three at home in series.
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