Chargers vs. Everyone: A 2009 Regular Season in San Diego

Sean AhernCorrespondent IAugust 15, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 14:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers runs against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half on December 14, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Sadly, for the Superchargers, 8-8 won't cut it this year.

Last year, to the disappointment of many, San Diego aimed for the lowest common denominator when it came to getting into the playoffs.

Simple mistakes and early season injuries crippled the team with losses to the Panthers, Bills, Saints (ala Drew Brees), Dolphins, and Falcons.

San Diego served up more heartbreak for its fans than an army of geeks on prom night will ever experience.

With the return of a healthy Shawne Merriman at outside linebacker, an increasingly effective running game with LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, and new recruits like Larry English, we can only hope to see at least a 10-6 record this year from the boys in powder blue. But it won't come easy.

The AFC West is quickly turning into a powder keg of excitement. Kyle Orton will be taking the starting spot for the Denver Broncos and Matt Cassel, formerly of the "noble" New England Patriots, will be leading the offensive attack for the Kansas City Chiefs, while Tom Cable will be taking over at the head coaching position of the rival Oakland Raiders.

Besides the rustling in the bushes of the AFC West, the Chargers have some significant hurdles to surpass in the regular season. Raiders games aside, its gonna be an uphill fight this year for tough-talkin' Norv Turner and Co.

In September, games against the Ravens and Dolphins will be warm-up matches for an away game against the Steelers, the very team that put away the Chargers hopes for playoff success last season.

After a trip to Pittsburgh, games against the Broncos and the Chiefs, with revamped and renewed offensive lines, will stand to fend off San Diego's hope of repeated success from last year.

San Diego lost their first fight to the Broncos last season only to overwhelm them in an AFC race-to-the-finish in December. 

Games against the Chiefs were closer than recent seasons and there is no doubt with Mr. Cassel at quarterback that Kansas City will be any easier to take down this season.

Mid-season bouts against the Giants, Cowboys, and Eagles will send the Chargers to the east coast. San Diego is quick to prove itself among the top teams in the AFC (sans atrocious last season stats), but there is one caveat.

Past October, California teams have traditionally fallen to pieces to the powerhouse teams of the east thanks to the unnaturally cold weather and stone cold defenses.

If the Chargers are to make an impact this season, at least one of these three in the east will have to go down in November and December.

Last season, the Chargers fell apart and lost games in the fourth quarter. Even John Madden can tell us that if you give up in the fourth, you won't win football games.

Norv has to remember to play the full four quarters this year or expect heartbreaking losses at the hands of the Broncos, Chiefs, or Giants.

The Chargers have talent, we know this for a fact as we watched Darren Sproles run circles around the Colts in post-season play last year. All Norv has to do is play the game for the intended 60-minutes of regulation time.

The Chargers will have to take easy fights against teams like the Browns, Raiders,  Ravens, and Bengals as litmus tests for battles against teams like the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins at the end of the season.

If San Diego comes out fighting in one-sided conflicts, it will help them in the long run as they fight against powerhouses in the NFC.

With pre-season games looming, only time will tell if the Chargers will be able to stand up against competition, or a winning record, at the top of the AFC West this year.