The NFL scheduled the Chargers for a league-high six night games this season because, well, they don’t put bad teams in nationally-televised primetime games, to steal a line from standout safety Derwin James Jr. Or maybe it was any number of a thousand players and coaches.
So, somebody in charge thinks the Chargers will be contenders in 2023.
At the very least, somebody believes they’ll be quite a bit more interesting than your run-of-the-mill playoff challengers in a very loaded AFC. The Chargers do appear deeper and more cohesive in Brandon Staley’s third season as their coach and Justin Herbert’s fourth as their quarterback.
Here’s a week-by-week look at how the Chargers might fare in 2023:
Sept. 10: Miami Dolphins, 1:25 p.m., SoFi Stadium
The Chargers used a 23-17 victory over Miami as a springboard to a four-game winning streak last season. Can they do it again? Can they start the season with a win over one of the NFL’s top offenses? Win. Record: 1-0.
Sept. 17: Tennessee Titans, 10 a.m., Nissan Stadium
One of their victories during their four-game winning streak that carried them into a wild-card spot last season was over the Titans, their 11th in their past 13 games overall against Tennessee. Win. Record: 2-0.
Sept. 24: Minnesota Vikings, 10 a.m., U.S. Bank Stadium
The Chargers pay a visit to the Black and Blue Division, the first of four games against the NFL Central Division this season. Loss. Record: 2-1.
Oct. 1: Las Vegas Raiders, 1:05 p.m. SoFi Stadium
This figures to be a home date in name only, with Southern California Raiders fans filling SoFi Stadium. Despite the presence of so much silver and black in the stands, the Chargers have won 14 of 20 at home vs. the Raiders. Win. Record: 3-1.
Week 5: Bye week.
Oct. 16: Dallas Cowboys, 5:15 p.m., SoFi Stadium
The Chargers’ bye week is a day longer than usual with their first game after the break scheduled for Monday Night Football. Kellen Moore spent his entire NFL career with the Cowboys, but is now the Chargers’ offensive coordinator. Win. Record: 4-1.
Oct. 22: Kansas City Chiefs, 1:25 p.m., Arrowhead Stadium
Once more into the roiling cauldron that is Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Super Bowl champions and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the only man with more passing yardage than Herbert last season. Loss. Record: 4-2.
Oct. 29: Chicago Bears, 5:20 p.m., SoFi Stadium
This looms as a bounce-back game for the Chargers. Win. Record: 5-2.
Nov. 6: New York Jets, 5:15 p.m., MetLife Stadium
Man, 1969 seems like a long time ago. Don’t @ me. It’s a fact. At this point, we all should know whether Aaron Rodgers has made Jets fans of a certain age finally forget about Broadway Joe Namath. Loss. Record: 5-3.
Nov. 12: Detroit Lions, 1:05 p.m., SoFi Stadium
The Chargers host the Lions for the first time since 2015, when Keenan Allen did ‘em dirty with 15 receptions in a 33-28 victory, the most catches in a season-opening game since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Win. Record: 6-3.
Nov. 19: Green Bay Packers, 10 a.m., Lambeau Field
You know the late, great broadcaster John Facenda actually never spoke the words “frozen tundra” during any of the NFL Films presentations he narrated. But, hey, the phrase stuck, so who are we to nitpick? Loss. Record: 6-4.
Nov. 26: Baltimore Ravens, 5:20 p.m. SoFi Stadium
The season-ending push toward a second consecutive playoff berth seems like it should begin right here with a home date against the Ravens. Win. Record: 7-4.
Dec. 3: New England Patriots, 10 a.m., Gillette Stadium
This really seems like a trap game with the Ravens in the Chargers’ rear-view mirror and the AFC West-rival Broncos up next. Win. Record: 8-4.
Dec. 10: Denver Broncos, 1:25 p.m., SoFi Stadium
The Chargers and Broncos, under new coach Sean Payton, face off twice in a four-week span. It would add some spice to the rivalry if Payton made the Broncos competitive again after a clunker of a 2022 season. Win. Record: 9-4.
Dec. 14: Las Vegas Raiders, 5:15 p.m., Allegiant Stadium
Las Vegas was a house of horrors for the Chargers the past two seasons, including their season-ending OT loss to the Raiders that knocked them from a wild-card spot in the 2021 season: Loss. Record: 9-5.
Dec. 23: Buffalo Bills, 5 p.m., SoFi Stadium
Well, at least the Chargers don’t have to worry about the winter weather in Western New York while playing host to Josh Allen and the Bills. They merely have to worry about Josh Allen and the Bills. Loss. Record: 9-6.
Dec. 31: Denver Broncos, 1:25 p.m., Mile High Stadium
You again? Loss. Record: 9-7.
Jan. 6 or 7: Kansas City Chiefs, TBD, SoFi Stadium
It’s likely that this will be a meaningless game, with both teams having clinched the top spots in the AFC West and heading for the playoffs. But wouldn’t it be something special if the division championship were at stake? Win. Record: 10-7.
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