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A Look Ahead: 2024 Schedule Will Make Chargers Harder To Break

Updated: May 22

September 8, 1:05 PM Las Vegas (LAC -3.5)

All the smoke. Tom Telesco joined the long list of former Chargers to link up with the Silver and Black. This lineage goes all the way back to a bitter rival whose origin story includes poaching a young assistant coach named Al Davis to run their bumbling organization in 1963.

Chargers tackle Ron Mix was so beloved by the organization that owner Gene Klein made a verbal promise to retire his jersey number (74) the day Mix hung up his cleats. When Davis coaxed Mix out of retirement to come play one more season in Oakland Klein was so upset he rescinded the jersey retirement. Seeing the Raiders post articles like  this are the embodiment of trolling.

If it feels like the Raiders want to be the Chargers so bad, that might be just because they do. Think about the Chargers retreads they have signed just this decade: Jaylen Guyton, Jerry Tillery, Kyle Emanuel, Denzel Perryman, Brandon Fayson, Casey Hayward, Tyron Johnson, Isaac Rochell, DeAndre Carter, and Roderic Teamer.

The Raiders have been relying on the Chargers front office to evaluate players long before they hired Telesco. And now they are even hoping to practice at their old digs in Costa Mesa!

The last time these two teams met the Raiders thrashed the Chargers so thoroughly (63-21) that they fired Telesco and former head coach Brandon Staley the next day. Time will tell, but there are more than a few of us who have already thanked them for doing us the favor. W (1-0)

September 15, 10 AM at Carolina (LAC -5)

The Chargers don't play the Panthers often and when they do they don't play them well. But what better opportunity to prove that the new regime has turned a page than to travel to North Carolina and play a team that went 2-15 (2-6 at home) last year?

The Panthers had the 4th worst scoring defense in the NFL in 2023 (24.5) and the Chargers won't need that many against Bryce Young. W (2-0)

September 22, 10 AM at Pittsburgh (PIT -2)

The Steelers play their first two games on the road making this their home opener. Pittsburgh is always a difficult place to play and coach Mike Tomlin is 5-3 against the Chargers all time. For good reason too. The Steelers are one of the gold standards of pro football and rarely (virtually never) experience losing seasons.

That said, I can already imagine Jim Harbaugh telling his team all week that, "They booked the wrong team for their Homecoming!" The Chargers don't turn it over. The Steelers do once. The Chargers make their kicks, and match their physicality, and. . .almost win. L (2-1)

September 29, 1:25 PM Kansas City (KC -3)

The gold standard of barbecue again comes to town to tease the locals at what a division winner looks like. Let's get the ugly numbers out of the way here at the start: The Chargers have not won a home game against Kansas City since December 29, 2013. The Chargers have not won the AFC West since 2009. The Chiefs are attempting to win the division for the ninth-consecutive year (the Broncos won it and the Super Bowl in 2015) and still employ Patrick Mahomes who lost his first road game in the division finally last season!

The Chiefs probably won't be "up" for this rivalry game because it isn't one to them. Chargers take a lead, but give Mahomes the ball back. After the game the talk isn't about how they let one get away. Instead it sounds like the Chargers hope to learn something from it. L (2-2)

October 13, 1:05 PM at Denver (LAC -2)

Death, taxes, and terrible things happening to the Chargers at Mile High. These things are certain. For years when it was John Elway, or Peyton Manning driving the length of the field to dash your hopes it made logical sense, but for some reason the Chargers have a special ability to make Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater, Russell Wilson, Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Tim Tebow, Brian Griese, or Bubby Brister look like John Elway. Perhaps it is the lack of oxygen?

In their best seasons the Chargers can overcome the Denver hex and make enough plays to win these games. And in others rookie kickers like Younghoe Koo make the game-tying 44-yard kick but has to try again after a Broncos timeout—and on his second attempt, see it blocked.

In this regard the Denver trip arrives at the perfect time to inform us how serious this Chargers team is. Coming off of a bye week, yes, the Chargers are better on paper, but they almost always are. Everything about this game screams obvious win, but somewhere Bo Nix is squinting in the mirror. L (2-3)

October 21, 6:00 PM at Arizona (ARI -1)

The NFL did not give the Chargers many prime-time games this year. The Monday night tilt against the Cardinals is not even the only game on the schedule that night. The Ravens travel to play the Buccaneers in the game ESPN will televise to the nation. The Charger game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and will probably have a lot of people either heading to a sports bar or asking their friends for a little password sharing.

The Chargers won't mind flying under the radar—and speaking of flying, the flight to Tuscon is both brief and economical. W (3-3)

Sunday October 27, 1:05 PM New Orleans (LAC -3)

The Saints have one of the weirder rosters in football which results in some of the stranger results. Last season, for instance, they beat New England 34-0 in Foxborough, one week after losing a home game to the Buccaneers 26-9!

The voodoo (and the costumes) come to Sofi a few days before Halloween and the trick-or-treat Saints should not be taken lightly. Assuming health in the same paragraph that I mentioned voodoo and Halloween is probably a mistake, but that said, I think that Joey Bosa will be looking forward to terrorizing his old buddy Derek Carr again. Who Dey? We Dey! W (4-3)

November 3, 10:00 AM at Cleveland (CLE -3)

The Browns return one of the best defensive squads in the game and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Myles Garrett. Don't sleep on coordinator Jim Schwartz either, who once had a postgame altercation with Jim Harbaugh after an awkward post-game handshake. The Chargers probably will not be able to run the ball against this stingy front and Herbert will be asked to do more. We know he is up to the challenge, but the Browns win. L (4-4)

November 10, 1:05 PM Tennessee (LAC -4)

The Titans are a fascinating franchise. In a sense they are a Bizarro version of the Chargers. Think about it. New front offices and coaching regimes trying to remake their rosters on the fly with an emphasis on the offensive line. If the Chargers had not selected Joe Alt from Notre Dame with the fifth pick in the draft then you know for certain that the Titans would have. (They settled for another massive human with J.C. Lathum from Alabama with the seventh overall pick.)

In another sense, they are essentially the off-brand Chargers. Will Levis has a strong arm, but he wouldn't be confused with Justin Herbert on his best days. Former first-round pick Kenneth Murray isn't even the player Junior Colson (third round) projects to become. New Titans coach Brian Callahan is a former quarterback (UCLA) whose father is an an established offensive line coach. New Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh is a former quarterback (Michigan, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers) whose father was an established head coach in college.

The Titans have haphazardly reconfigured their roster (exit Derrick Henry, sub in Tony Pollard) and given some lucrative contracts to some names that best fit below the marquee: receivers Tyler Boyd and Calvin Ridley, defensive linemen Sebastian Joeseph-Day and Marlon Davidson, and offensive linemen Saahdiq Charles and Leroy Watson. The Titans boldest move was trading for cornerback L'Jarius Sneed from the Chiefs in exchange for a 2025 third-round pick and a swap of 2024 seventh-round picks.

The sportsbooks aren't buying their moves. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the over/under win total for the Titans is currently sitting at 5.5 which is tied for the third-lowest total in the NFL with the Denver Broncos. W (5-4)

Sunday November 17, 1:25 PDT Cincinnati (CIN -2)

This is where the schedule gets tough. The Bengals 2023 season was derailed by injuries but they expect to be contenders once again as indicated by the decision to pay Tee Higgens under the franchise tag despite his desire to be traded (and paid).

The league moved the trade deadline to back to November 5 (it was October 31 in 2023) and you can't help but wonder, will Higgens still be on the roster on November 17? If he is, then expect the Bengals to fighting for the playoffs. If he isn't, then an 'All-In' season probably got away from them. Chargers fans should brace themselves for the public outcry online when the team does not trade for him.

Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow have only met once before in a wild 41-22 Chargers victory in 2021. The rivalry exists more on Reddit pages than on the field, thus far. Look for new defensive coordinator Jessie Minter to have a plan that confuses Burrow. In what should be one of the most entertaining games of the season expect a defensive stop late in the game to preserve a barn-burner. W (6-4)

Monday November 25, 5:15 PDT Baltimore (BAL -2.5)

The only prime-time game that the Chargers will host all season will be a reunion of sorts. The general manager, the head coaches, the pair of running backs, and even members of the 2023 first round receiver class (Quentin Johnston and Zay Flowers) will all be reunited for Monday Night Football to cap the Thanksgiving weekend.

These teams were not that unevenly matched last season when the Chargers, seemingly snake-bit all year, trailed late in the fourth quarter 13-10 against the Ravens who possessed the best record in the NFL (13-4), and the league's MVP Lamar Jackson. Baltimore pulled away with a last minute with a Zay Flowers touchdown and won 20-10. Another nail in Tom Telesco's coffin, but who's counting anyway?

That nip-tuck affair turned on the Chargers inability to capitalize on the opportunities the Ravens gave them: a missed field goal by All Pro Justin Tucker and a subpar game by Jackson's standards (177 yards passing, 1 touchdown, 39 yards rushing).

Expect another tight one. decided by special teams—a specialty of John's. Justin Tucker doesn't miss a late kick two years in a row and the Ravens win. John improves to 4-0 against his brother Jim and gets to give him a noogie at midfield after the game. L (6-5)

December 1, 10:00 AM at Atlanta (ATL -2.5)

The Chargers went to Atlanta in 2022 and escaped with a 20-17 victory that featured a bizarre finish as Austen Ekeler fumbled the ball in field goal range in the final minutes. The Falcons Ta'Quon Graham recovered the fumble and ran it to the Falcons 36-yard line before he too fumbled. The Chargers recovered it at the Falcons 43 and were given another opportunity to drive for the winning points.

This time the Bolts will get a look at new Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins who joined the team this off season. If Cousins and his surgically repaired Achilles tendon are available for this one it will take more than 20 points to leave the Dirty Dirty with another victory. L (6-6)

December 8 5:20 PM at Kansas City (KC -6.5)

For the Jim Harbaugh era to successfully show proof-of-concept to the fans, and to the rest of the league, they will either have to beat the Chiefs twice, or somehow wrestle away the division from them in a series split.

This could be a cold weather affair played at night in Missouri in front of the nation. Those type of games used to give the Chargers chills, but this squad is built different. By this point they can run the ball, control the clock, and get after the passer. Look for the Chargers to upset the Chiefs and get back into the playoff race. W (7-6)

Sunday December 15, 1:25 PDT Tampa Bay (LAC -3)

The Bucs won their division and have some excellent players but they will find that difficult to replicate with age, attrition, and a much tougher schedule. W (8-6)

Sunday December 22, 1:05 PM Denver (LAC -4)

The Broncos will probably be trying to lose-out in order to secure the top pick in the draft by this point. They won't roll over like they did against Miami last season, but expect them to quit early. W (9-6)

Week 17 TBD, at New England (LAC -2.5)

Ding dong, the witch is dead. The Chargers snapped a decade-and-a-half losing streak against the Patriots last season in a 6-0 victory that the longest suffering Chargers fans (me) probably enjoyed a little too much. Aesthetically pleasing, this was not. But seeing Bill Belichick and the New England home crowd suffering through another shutout home loss in a rainstorm was just about as much fun as some of us had all season. It was also the last time the Chargers won a game.

I cannot believe I am writing this, but, the Chargers will start a streak of their own against the Pats and win in Foxborough twice in just over 12 months, clinching a spot in the playoffs in doing so. W (10-6)

Week 18 TBD, at Las Vegas (LAC -1)

With nothing to gain the Chargers decide to rest their players for the wildcard game. Herbert plays for two series to keep a starting streak intact. Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, and Derwin James wear sweats on the sidelines.

In the second half the Raiders blow out their opponent's third and fourth stringers to the delight of the Black Hole. Though they do not know it, at least three of these Chargers will someday sign a contract with the Raiders. That’s not shade; it’s just numbers.

With under a minute to go, Chargers rookie Kimani Vidal (who wears number 30) breaks a tackle and runs for a first down. When he gets up and sees the chains are being moved he doesn't seem to notice. Nobody prints a t-shirt about it. L (10-7)

Point spreads courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.

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