San Diego Chargers Schedule 2014: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game
How a schedule is put together can be a factor in how a team performs in any given season. The opponents are predetermined, but the order can also be a factor.
The San Diego Chargers lost to the Houston Texans in Week 1 of 2013, a team that won its first two games and then lost its next 14 in a row. Adjustments have to be made, and teams sometimes don't find their identity until they have played a few games together.
Teams with new schemes are still learning, while teams with old schemes are trying to keep their schemes fresh so opponents can't find tendencies to exploit. Playing the toughest game of the year off a bye week can be a benefit, while playing tough games back to back can be a detriment.
Teams such as the Chargers from the West Coast traveling to the Eastern time zone can also be difficult. The Chargers play the AFC East teams this year, so two trips to the East Coast are on the schedule.
Here's how the schedule might impact the Chargers in 2014 and an early prediction on how those games might pan out.
Week 1: San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals
Kickoff: Monday, September 8, 2014, at 7:20 p.m. PDT/10:20 p.m. EDT
The Chargers will make a short trip east to play the Arizona Cardinals. The 10-6 Cardinals had a better record than the Chargers last year, played in a tougher division and missed the playoffs.
In 2013, the Cardinals boasted the best run defense in the entire league in terms of rush yards allowed, and they were tied for second in yards per carry allowed. They were good against the pass, but opponents figured they would have more luck throwing the ball.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson is one of the stars in this league and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was having a great rookie season until getting hurt late in the year. Offensively, the Cardinals are also above average.
If you consider how good the defenses are that the Cardinals played in 2013, their 23.7 points per game scored is impressive. The Cardinals had six games against the top-four defense in points allowed in 2013. The Cardinals also played the Indianapolis Colts, who were ninth and scored 40 points on them.
If the Chargers are going to beat the Cardinals on the road in 2014, they are going to need to play extremely well. Only the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers beat the Cardinals in Arizona last season.
Week 2: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers
Kickoff: Sunday, September 12, 2014, at 1:05 p.m. PDT/4:05 p.m. EDT
The Seattle Seahawks were a tough team to beat at home and on the road last season, but they were more than a full touchdown worse in point differential on the road. For that reason, the Chargers are no doubt glad they get to play the defending Super Bowl champs at home.
Where the Seahawks have a major advantage over the Chargers is on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, the Chargers had a slight advantage last season, but wide receiver Percy Harvin—Seattle's most dangerous offensive weapon—missed most of the year.
Unless San Diego's defense improves drastically in 2014, the Seahawks have a significant advantage. Seattle's defense was the best in the league in just about every statistical category, including yards per play, points per game and turnovers. The Chargers were near the bottom in those categories with the exception of points per game allowed where their ball-control offense helped hide their deficiencies.
Week 3: San Diego Chargers at Buffalo Bills
Kickoff: Sunday, September 21, 2014, at 10 a.m. PDT/1 p.m. EDT
Travelling to the Eastern time zone is always tough for teams on the West Coast. Last year, the Chargers were 2-2 in the Eastern time zone, but they were an impressive 2-1 when the games started at 10 a.m. Pacific.
The Buffalo Bills had a very good defense in 2013. They allowed just 4.9 yards per play which was fourth in the entire league and had 30 forced turnovers which was tied for sixth. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine did such a good job, he got the head coaching job in Cleveland.
Buffalo's offense was the problem last season—particularly the passing game. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel played in just 10 games, and his rookie season was less than spectacular.
Manuel completed just 58.8 percent of his passes, averaged 6.4 yards per attempts and had just 11 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Thaddeus Lewis was equally, if not more effective than Manuel in his five starts for the team.
Buffalo's leading receiver last season was tight end Scott Chandler with just 655 yards. That's not very good. What this means for the Chargers is that the Bills are going to have a hard time taking advantage of their defense.
Buffalo's run defense was average, but their pass defense was one of the best in the league. Even after losing free safety Jairus Byrd in free agency, the Chargers would be better off trying to win the game on the ground.
Week 4: Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers
Kickoff: Sunday, September 28, 2014, at 1:05 p.m. PDT/4:05 p.m. EDT
It's going to be a few years before the Jacksonville Jaguars are contenders, but they should be an improved team in 2014. Last year, the Chargers went to Jacksonville and cruised to a 24-6 victory.
The Jaguars had a terrible offensive line in 2013, so they signed left guard Zane Beadles in free agency. They needed a pass-rusher, so they signed free-agent defensive end Chris Clemons. They needed a couple of guys to stop the run, so they signed defensive lineman Red Bryant.
There's little doubt the Jaguars will be a tougher team to beat in 2014, but they still probably won't be a team that can go on the road and win consistently. Three of the Jaguars' four wins in 2013 came on the road, but those opponents averaged just over four wins last season.
As long as the Chargers don't beat themselves, a victory against the Jaguars can be written in pencil even at this early stage of the offseason.
Week 5: New York Jets at San Diego Chargers
Kickoff: Sunday, October 5, 2014, at 1:25 p.m. PDT/4:25 p.m. EDT
The New York Jets were 2-6 on the road last season and 6-2 at home—one of the the largest home-road splits you will see. In five of the six losses on the road, the Jets scored 14 points or less.
Of course, things change from year to year. The Jets attempted to bolster their offense by signing wide receiver Eric Decker, running back Chris Johnson and quarterback Michael Vick. We'll have to wait and see if those moves pay off enough to exploit San Diego's defense.
New York's defense is what kept it in games last year. Defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was an impact rookie and should only be better in 2014. The Chargers may have trouble running the ball against the the Jets' front seven.
Last year, the Jets held opposing teams to a league-best 3.4 yards per carry. In total, the Jets allowed the third-fewest yards and were tied for sixth in rushing touchdowns allowed.
The Chargers were 0-5 in games when they had fewer than 100 rushing yards and 4-1 in games where they had 150 or more. The Jets allowed 150 or more rushing yards once and over 100 just five times in 2013.
Week 6: San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Kickoff: Sunday, October 12, 2014, at 1:05 p.m. PDT/4:05 p.m EDT
In Week 5 last season, the Chargers went to Oakland as the road favorites and lost. The Chargers were never really in the game as the Raiders jumped out to a 17-0 lead. The Raiders extended the lead to 24-3 before the Chargers put up a couple of scores.
The Chargers' 36 rushing yards against the Raiders in Oakland was their lowest total all season. The Chargers also had five turnovers and a muffed punt that the Raiders turned into 24 of their 27 points.
As long as the Chargers aren't as sloppy in Oakland next season, they will have a much better shot to win the game. However, the Raiders should also be a much-improved team in 2014 after signing as many as nine new starters this offseason.
Week 7: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers
Kickoff: Sunday, October 19, 2014, at 1:05 p.m. PDT/4:05 p.m. EDT
The Chargers needed overtime to beat the Kansas City Chiefs backups to make the playoffs in Week 17 in San Diego. The season was on the line at home, and the Chargers needed 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and overtime to win the game.
A field goal to open the overtime gave the Chiefs a chance to win, and they marched to San Diego's 41 before a fourth-down pass fell incomplete. That's not great, but the Chargers also won in Kansas City 41-38 in Week 12.
The Chiefs and the Chargers could not be more different. The Chargers had a good offense and bad defense in 2013, and the Chiefs had an average offense and good defense. Where the two teams are similar is in the fact that they are both going into Year 2 under their current leadership and did relatively little this offseason to improve.
Against a tough defense like the Chiefs, the Chargers may miss Ken Whisenhunt calling the plays. Still, the Chargers should be able get a home victory against an opponent of roughly equal strength.
Week 8: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
Kickoff: Thursday, October 23, 2014, at 5:25 p.m. PDT/8:25 p.m. EDT
Network: CBS, NFL Network
The Chargers were the only team to beat the Denver Broncos at home last season or by more than six points. The Week 15 win in Denver was the Chargers' most impressive win of the season considering the circumstances.
The Chargers used a similar ball-control game plan in the playoffs against the Broncos in Denver and were unsuccessful. Denver's revamped defense should make it even harder for the Chargers to replicate their success.
San Diego's best chance to close the gap is to improve defensively themselves to take some of the pressure off the offense. Unfortunately, they didn't make any major defensive moves in free agency and will have to find an instant contributor in the draft.
Week 9: San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins
Kickoff: Sunday, November 2, 2014, at 10 a.m. PST/1 p.m. EST
The Chargers will travel to Miami for the second year in a row to take on the Miami Dolphins. Last year, the Chargers lost 20-16. In that game, the Chargers had several opportunities to take the lead but couldn't do so.
The game in Miami was the only game last season in which the Chargers rushed for more than 150 yards and still lost. It was just one of three games the Chargers lost when rushing for more than 100 yards.
It was a bit of a fluky game because it was one of the better games for the Chargers in terms of offensive and defensive output. The Chargers just struggled to score touchdowns and extend drives.
The Dolphins are probably a better team than they are given credit for, but if the Chargers were even just a little better offensively, they would have beaten them last season. The Chargers should perform better in 2014, even if the game time is less-than-ideal.
Week 10: Bye Week
No time for a vacation during the bye week, but it is a good week for players to rest. The Chargers get a late bye in 2014, which could be a blessing or a curse depending on how well the team is playing.
Week 11: Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
Kickoff: Sunday, November 16, 2014, at 1:05 p.m. PST/4:05 p.m. EST
When the Oakland Raiders came to San Diego in 2013, the two teams went to halftime tied 10-10 before the Chargers pulled away in the second half. The Raiders always seem to give the Chargers trouble, even when they aren't very good.
The Raiders should be a much-improved team in 2014. Oakland's additions on the offensive line, defensive line and secondary were all upgrades over last year.
No one is expecting the Raiders to turn everything around in one season, but they can certainly give teams such as the Chargers a scare. Division games are often an adventure because the teams know each other so well. That's true even for the head coaches, who are close friends.
Don't be surprised if the Chargers struggle a little bit to put the revamped Raiders away. As is usually the case in the NFL, there are not many easy wins.
Week 12: St. Louis Rams at San Diego Chargers
Kickoff: Sunday, November 23, 2013, at 1:05 p.m. PST/4:05 p.m. EST
The St. Louis Rams came in last place in the NFC West last season, but they are much better than your average bottom-dweller. The Rams were 7-9 on the season but also were without their starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, for nine games.
Additionally, the Rams had quality wins over the New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals. Only two of the Rams' nine losses were to teams that finished under .500.
The good news is the Chargers get to play the game at home. The Rams were 2-6 last season on the road, and one win was against the 2-14 Houston Texans.
The Rams were inconsistent defending the run, a key factor in stopping the Chargers. The Rams allowed the second-fewest yards per carry, but they were 28th in rushing touchdowns allowed and ninth in yards allowed.
The Rams were statistically better against the run on the road, but they allowed more than 100 rushing yards five times compared to just twice at home. The Rams were 1-6 when they allowed more than 100 rushing yards and 6-3 when allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards.
Week 13: San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
Kickoff: Sunday, November 30, 2014, at 10 a.m. PST/1 p.m. EST
The Baltimore Ravens had a down year in 2013. Coming off their Super Bowl victory, the Ravens simply lost too many good players to be effective last season. What the Ravens did do was add young talent that should start to mature in 2014 and beyond.
Not only should the Ravens be a little better in 2014, but they also are historically very good at home. Over the last two years, the Ravens are 12-4 in Baltimore. Two of the losses were by a field goal or less.
As is a theme with the Chargers' 2014 opponents, the Ravens' strength on defense is stopping the run. The Ravens allowed just nine rushing touchdowns in 2013 and were tied for fourth in yards per carry allowed.
If the Chargers don't open things up in the passing game against their 2014 opponents, they could struggle.
Week 14: New Engand Patriots at San Diego Chargers
Kickoff: Sunday, December 7, 2014,at 5:30 p.m. PST/8:30 p.m. EST
The Chargers are lucky enough to play the New England Patriots at home instead of on the road. The Patriots were 9-0 at home last season, but they were 4-5 on the road including the playoffs.
One of the Patriots' biggest weaknesses last season was stopping the run after Vince Wilfork went down in Week 4. Running the ball happens to be one the Chargers' specialties, and they added a third running back in Donald Brown this offseason in order to keep Ryan Mathews fresh.
Wilfork will return in 2014, but there's no guarantee he will be as effective. It's also unlikely Wilfork's absence was the sole reason their run defense was a problem.
Quarterback Tom Brady could carve up the San Diego secondary, but it's worth noting that the Chargers were much better defending the pass at home last year. They allowed 236 yards per game through the air in eight home games and 281.8 yards through the air in 10 road games, including the playoffs.
Week 15: Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers
Kickoff: Sunday, December 14, 2014, at 1:05 p.m. PST/4:05 p.m. EST
The Chargers played the Broncos tough in 2013 in three games, including a 24-17 loss in the playoffs. Every game was decided by a single score. The largest margin was when the Chargers lost at home by eight points in Week 10.
The final scores of the losses were a lot closer than they looked. The Chargers were down 28-6 at one point during the game in San Diego, but they battled back and had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Their drive would stall at their own 39-yard line, and their defense couldn't get the ball back.
In the playoffs, the Chargers were down 17-0 and 24-7 before getting two late scores. Like the game in San Diego, the Chargers couldn't get a defensive stop to give their offense a chance to tie late in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers have been quiet this offseason, but the Broncos made several high-profile signings on defense including pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward. It's going to be a lot harder for the Chargers to climb back into a game if they surrender big leads early in the game like they did twice last season.
One thing the Chargers did do was improve their running game by signing running back Donald Brown to pair with Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead. Ball control was the Chargers' key to beating the Broncos in Denver last December, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Week 16: San Diego Chargers at San Francisco 49ers
Kickoff: Saturday, December 20, 2014, at 1:30 p.m. PST/4:30 p.m. EST
Network: CBS, NFL Network
The Chargers get to travel to the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara this fall. The 49ers are still considered one of the best teams in the NFC, so the Chargers will have to play their best to win.
Before losing to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers had reeled off eight straight wins, including five on the road. At home, the 49ers were 6-2 with the two losses to teams that would make the playoffs.
In both losses, the 49ers offense was the problem, not the defense. That means San Diego's defense is going to have to play extremely well. San Diego's offense is its strength, so it could be a tough matchup.
The 49ers were the fourth-best team in the league in rush yards allowed. It could be hard for the Chargers to execute their normal offense if they can't run the ball effectively.
The 49ers were also good against the pass, but they also lost one of their starters and their nickelback to the Raiders this offseason. There may be an opportunity for the Chargers to stay competitive through the air if they can protect Philip Rivers.
Week 17: San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Kickoff: Sunday, December 28, 2014, at 10 a.m. PST/1 p.m. EST
San Diego's 41-38 win over the Chiefs in Kansas City in 2013 was the start of the Chargers' 5-1 finish that resulted in a playoff berth. The Chargers drove 78 yards in 46 seconds and scored on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Seyi Ajirotutu with just 31 seconds to play to win it.
The 41 points the Chiefs allowed to the Chargers was the most they allowed all season until they collapsed in the playoffs and lost to the Indianapolis Colts 45-44. It was an impressive performance by the Chargers considering the quality of Kansas City's defense last year.
However, the Chargers struggled to beat the Chiefs' reserves in Week 17 in what was a must-win game. The Chargers prevailed, but it was only after a flurry of scoring late in the game. It would be generous to predict that the Chargers can get another road win in Kansas City at this stage of the offseason.