Here are five lessons we learned from the release of the 2014 NFL Schedule. 1. Oddity Up Front
– According to Philip Rivers
and many other Chargers, when the schedule was announced their eyes immediately searched for their Week 1 opponent. Most assumed they would once again open up with the second game of the annual Monday Night Doubleheader. However, just like most of the NFL world, the Bolts were shocked to see they would be facing the Arizona Cardinals. So just how much of an impact will this have when the teams kickoff on Monday night? Quite honestly no one is really sure. It is such a unique occurrence that there isn’t any precedent in the Chargers locker room. One thing for sure though is that there will be much discussion on the topic in the days leading up to opening night.
2. Waiting for the AFC West – The Chargers know they must win their division games. However, they won’t even get the opportunity to do so until Week 6 when they travel to Oakland to face the Raiders. This marks the latest San Diego has played an AFC West rival since 2001 when they hosted the Denver Broncos in Week 6 as well. This year’s match against the Raiders is the first of three games in a row against each AFC West foe, so it figures to be an important trio of matches for the Bolts.
3. Impressive Home Schedule - The Chargers have a fantastic home schedule set for 2014. Looking at the teams that visit the Q, it’s no wonder why Nick Hardwick expects Qualcomm Stadium to be a mad house this year. Bookending the home slate are both teams that appeared in the Super Bowl last year, beginning with the defending champion Seattle Seahawks and ending with the Denver Broncos. In between, the Chargers host the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and a Sunday night primetime game against the New England Patriots. Individual tickets are not yet on sale, so the only way to secure your seat right now is by becoming a Season Ticket Member. 4. Tough Final Stretch
–The Bolts face a tough home stretch to close out the season. After traveling across the country to face the Baltimore Ravens, San Diego faces three teams in a row that appeared in last year’s Conference Championship games - the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. Finally, the Chargers visit Arrowhead Stadium for an always tough division matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs to close out the season. This tough stretch wasn’t lost on Philip Rivers, but it is a test he thinks could prove beneficial for the Bolts:
“That home stretch is definitely a cluster of teams that have won a lot of football games not only recently, but over many years. So it will be a tough finish. But that’s when you need to be playing your best. If we battle through that finish and find ourselves into January, then we’ll be definitely battle tested for sure.”
5. Ignore “Strength of Schedule”
– Most analysts hammer home strength of schedule when the new season’s slate of games is released. Based on the 2013 finish, the Chargers supposedly have the fourth toughest strength of schedule heading into the 2014 season. Last year the Chargers supposedly had the second easiest schedule. To show how flimsy the strength of schedule argument is look no further than the Kansas City Chiefs. San Diego’s strength of schedule number in 2013 was based on the assumption the Chiefs were a 2-14 team when in fact they were an 11-5 squad. In the end, the Chargers had the 16th
toughest schedule last season, a number that was actually inflated by three teams picking in the top five of this year’s draft – the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders. So while you may hear a lot about strength of schedule, the fact of the matter is that the 2013 season is completely independent from 2014.